Norton 2-0 South Shields
By Philip Reay
South Shields were beaten by two quickfire second half goals as promotion-chasing Norton and Stockton Ancients claimed a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
A makeshift Shields side – depleted due to injuries, suspensions and unavailable players – held out until the 53rd minute, while they were reduced to 10 men late on when Paul Kane was sent off.
Norton had started the game on the front foot, and Shields had to weather early pressure.
Harrison Davies broke down the right flank before playing the ball into the path of Anthony Hume, but he was denied by a superb reflex save by Niki Lawson.
Norton maintained the pressure on the Shields defence as Davies attacked down the right, but he was unable to create any clear opportunities.
As the game approached the 15 minute mark, Norton’s Dan O’Brien collected the ball 25 yards from goal and fired a shot at goal that flew wide of the upright.
The resulting clearance by Shields goalkeeper Lawson was collected by Kane, and he fired a shot at goal from 25 yards that was comfortably saved by David Knight.
Norton continued to press forward, but their only reward was a series of corners that were comfortably defended by the Shields defence.
As the first half approached the midpoint, a foul on Davies resulted in a free-kick on the left angle of the box that was sent in by Rocky Andrews, but Michael Turner was on hand to head the ball clear.
On 25 minutes, a long clearance from Lawson found Kane wide on the left flank.
He beat his marker before releasing James Talbot, who fired the ball into the Norton box, but Knight tipped the ball over the bar for a Shields corner.
The visitors were enjoying a period of possession and pressure. Ryan Bolam and Alex Kempster combined to release Lee Maitland, who brushed aside the challenge of a Norton defender before firing a shot inches wide of the upright.
Shields continued to press forward. Maitland won the ball in the centre of the park and found Barrie Smith in space, and he launched a long range shot at goal that Knight tipped over the bar.
A minute later, the Mariners went close to opening the scoring.
Kempster’s pressure on the Norton goalkeeper resulted in him fluffing his clearance, and Kempster gathered the ball and fired it towards goal, but a goal-line clearance denied Shields an opening goal.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Davies broke down the right flank and crossed the ball towards Karl Charlton, but a fine save by Lawson foiled the Norton striker.
In the closing stages of the first half, Kane went close to giving the Mariners the lead.
He collected the ball wide on the left and cut inside towards goal before driving it towards the corner of the goal, only to be denied by a good save from Knight.
With the half-time interval looming, Shields were forced into their first change as debutant Brian Harrison replaced the injured Baptiste Fixot.
Deep into added time, Kane again tested Knight in the Norton goal, but his shot was saved and the sides went into the break all square at 0-0.
Norton started the second half as they had the first, and their pressure bore fruit on 53 minutes.
Davies fired a free-kick into the Shields box, and Lawson punched the ball clear.
However, it only went as far as Andrews, and he drove the ball through a group of players to give the home side the advantage.
The Norton lead was doubled three minutes later after a Shields attack had been halted by an offside flag.
Knight fired the free-kick over the Shields defence, and Charlton beat the defence to the ball to fire in.
Shields responded well to the setback, and on the hour Kane turned away from his marker before firing a shot at goal that whistled past the outside of the post.
The Mariners continued to press forward, and Harrison won the ball in the centre of the park and combined with Kane to release Talbot. He raced past his marker and fired a shot across goal that beat Knight, but went past the post.
With 15 minutes left, the Shields cause was dented as Kane saw red for a comment made to the referee.
Despite going a man down, the visitors continued to press forward, but were unable to break down the Norton defence, and the home side held on to claim all three points.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lawson, Talbot, Bolam, Rue (c), Renshaw, Turner, Smith, Fixot (Harrison 42), Kane, Kempster (Hanlon 85), Maitland (Simpson 85). Sub not used: Evans.