Skelmersdale United 0-1 South Shields: No title yet for Mariners
The champagne is on ice for South Shields – but a third consecutive title could be theirs on Tuesday.
The Mariners – who were promoted from the Evo-Stik North Division in midweek – battled to a 1-0 win at Skelmersdale United on Saturday.
But they missed out on the chance to celebrate the championship after title rivals Scarborough Athletic won 3-1 at Colne to seal promotion themselves.
Shields travel to Radcliffe on Tuesday, when they will wrap up the title with two games to spare should they claim another victory.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side had to show patience to get the better of second-bottom Skelmersdale, with substitute Graeme Armstrong netting the winner 14 minutes from the end.
It was a reward for the perseverance shown by the Mariners on a difficult surface at Prescot Cables’ Volair Park.
Shields quickly got on the front foot, with Gavin Cogdon and Carl Finnigan both going close with efforts in the early stages.
They were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring in the 16th minute when, after a superb move, a Matty Pattison shot which was destined for the bottom corner was somehow cleared off the line.
Home attacks were rare, although Josh Wardle did have a decent opportunity when he fired wide from just inside the area after a corner was half-cleared.
Shields added good pressure in the final stages of the first half, and almost took the lead when a cross from Craig Baxter met the head of Finnigan, who was denied by an excellent low save from Lee Callum Roberts in the Skelmersdale goal.
The Mariners were bright at the start of the second period, too, and the closest they came was when a Cogdon effort from distance took a big deflection before being clawed over the bar by Roberts.
An even better opportunity fell the way of Pattison when he was found eight yards out by a Michael Richardson cutback, but his effort flew over.
Shields suffered a blow when captain Julio Arca was forced off with a hamstring injury on the hour mark, but replacement Armstrong was to have a defining role in the victory.
It appeared that the Mariners were set for a frustrating afternoon until the 76th minute.
Baxter and Pattison produced some fine interplay on the right before the latter motored on and fizzed in a low cross which Armstrong flicked home to finally break the deadlock.
Both teams had chances in the remainder of the game, with Skelmersdale’s best opportunity falling the way of substitute Tunde Owolabi, who headed over from a corner.
Pattison and Aksel Juul could have wrapped it up for Shields, but just could not find a way past Roberts.
The Mariners had moved one step closer to the title. One more win will do it.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Storey, Morse, Arca (c) (Armstrong 61), Pattison, Briggs, Cogdon (Juul 78), Finnigan, Richardson (Holmes 75). Subs not used: Shaw, Sullivan.
Goal: Armstrong (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.