Ossett Albion 2-2 South Shields: Mariners come from two down
A stirring second half fightback moved South Shields four points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division on Saturday as they came from 2-0 down at Ossett Albion.
The Mariners were heading for a fourth league defeat of the season after going in at half-time two goals behind.
A superb response after the break saw them claim a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Michael Richardson and Jon Shaw, though they were unable to force a winner despite dominating the second half play.
The point moved them four points clear of Hyde United and Scarborough Athletic, who have both played a game more.
Shields were looking for a fifth straight win in the league, and started relatively brightly, with Aksel Juul whistling an early effort over from the right of the area.
However, they were rocked by a quickfire double from the hosts as they were made to pay for slackness at the back.
Adam Priestley fired Shields a warning as he volleyed an effort wide, but within a minute of that, Albion were ahead.
Joshua Grant slipped a ball through the middle for Tom Corner to run onto, and his effort across goal hit Dillon Morse before nestling in the net.
It turned into a nightmare minute for the Mariners, who conceded again just 15 seconds after kicking the game back off.
They gave the ball away soon after kick-off and it was worked by Marcus Day to Priestley, who took a touch to get it out of his feet before rifling a shot across Liam Connell and in.
Shields did not look like their usual selves in the first half as they struggled to find any rhythm, despite battling to get back into contention.
Their first real chance fell the way of Robert Briggs on the stroke of half-time, but he could only drag his effort wide from the edge of the box.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton will have been looking for a strong response from their side in the second half, and they got just that.
Lee Mason – who was arguably their best performer throughout – produced some fine skill to light up a move which led to a Louis Storey shot.
The effort from the midfielder was off-target, but Michael Richardson steered it in with his head to pull one goal back for Shields just two minutes into the second half.
That gave the Mariners the momentum they needed to press on, and they had a number of opportunities to get back on level terms.
Mason got on the end of a ball over the top on the right and the angle looked too tight, but he sent an audacious shot towards goal which goalkeeper Neil Bennett did well to claw out for a corner.
From that set-piece, Dillon Morse saw a header saved by Bennett, who could only watch as Graeme Armstrong nodded the rebound over.
Shields kept up the pressure and Storey volleyed wide, before they won a game-defining corner in the 66th minute.
Julio Arca took it from the right and curled it superbly into the six-yard box, where Shaw stooped to head it home and send the superb Shields travelling support into raptures.
A strong penalty appeal after a challenge on substitute Graeme Armstrong was waved away, while at the other end, Albion had some half chances from distance but were unable to seriously threaten a winner.
The Mariners penned them back again in the closing stages, and the closest they came to netting a dramatic winning goal came in the second of four added minutes.
Briggs curled in a teasing free-kick from the right and Armstrong nodded it goalwards, only to see it agonisingly pass the post and the team-mates who were attempting to slide it in.
At half-time, Shields would undoubtedly have settled for a point, although in the end they could have claimed a superb victory.
They will hope it proves to be an important point in the final reckoning.
The Mariners are back in league action on Tuesday when they travel to bottom side Goole for a 7.45pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Mason, Richardson (Armstrong 55), Juul (Holmes 62). Subs not used: Woolston, Nicholson, Ross.
Goals: Richardson (47), Shaw (66).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.