South Shields 1-0 Bishop Auckland: Richardson seals another win
Michael Richardson’s second half header sealed another vital win for South Shields as they moved to within six points of Northern League Division One leaders North Shields on Saturday.
The Mariners defeated Bishop Auckland 1-0 in a hard-fought game at Mariners Park.
It extended the club record of consecutive wins to 29, while Shields still have three games in hand on the leaders.
The match was played in front of another four-figure crowd, despite torrential rain in the hours leading up to kick-off leading to many of the surrounding roads being flooded, or grid-locked.
For what was the Mariners’ fourth game in eight days, eight changes were made to the team which started Thursday’s dramatic victory at Sunderland RCA.
But Shields were quickly on the front foot, with Robert Briggs curling a free-kick over within the first four minutes against a Bishops team including former Mariners Scott Pocklington and Ben Riding.
At the other end, Liam Connell returned to the starting line-up for the Mariners having been rested for the previous three matches, and he was rarely called into serious action.
However, he did make a good low save from Andre Bennett after the Bishops midfielder had broken free on the inside-right of the box.
Shields started to increase the pressure on the away team’s goal, with Andrew Stephenson shooting not far over while Jordan Blinco hit an effort inches past the post after being found by Alex Nicholson.
Pocklington also did a good job of keeping his former side at bay, twice saving from Gavin Cogdon as the hosts searched for the breakthrough.
It looked like it had arrived just after the half-hour mark when Briggs’ inviting ball into the box was headed in by Stephenson. However, the offside flag went up and the Shields celebrations were short-lived.
Cogdon flashed an effort wide after having a header saved, before Pocklington pulled off a stunning double stop two minutes before the break.
He pushed away a Richardson free-kick and then leapt to his feet to acrobatically tip the rebound from Nicholson over the bar.
The teams went in at half-time level, and the game followed a similar pattern after the break, albeit with an increased tempo going forward from Shields.
Richardson lifted a shot over from inside the box, but the Mariners were then given a real scare at the other end.
Stuart Thompson wriggled his way into a shooting position on the inside-right of the box before toe-poking a shot which went narrowly wide, with Connell beaten.
On 54 minutes, Julio Arca was introduced from the bench for Shields as he replaced Blinco, and the hosts gathered momentum to put the visiting backline under persistent pressure.
Barrie Smith fizzed a low cross into the box which Pocklington did well to parry, and Cogdon saw his follow-up attempt blocked.
Pocklington also made a terrific one-handed save down low as Cogdon tried to catch him out at his near post with a powerful effort.
Richardson was the next to go close as he brought down an Anthony Callaghan cross and then diverted the ball just wide with his left foot.
The Mariners continued to knock at the door, but this time the post thwarted them when Smith’s half volley from the edge of the box took a slight deflection and then came back off the upright.
Pocklington cleared it but Shields kept up the pressure, with Nicholson finding Stephenson on the right before he sent in an inviting cross which bounced in the six-yard box before being nodded in by Richardson.
With the Mariners having finally found the breakthrough, the complexion of the game changed as Bishops were forced to offer more of an attacking threat.
The chances kept coming for the home side, with Cogdon again frustrated as he controlled a cut-back from Nicholson before hitting a low shot inches past the post.
Goalscorer Richardson was forced off with a dead leg with 20 minutes remaining when a tackle from Two Blues captain Daniel Madden sent him flying.
Wayne Phillips came on and gave the visitors another problem to deal with.
Briggs went close twice as he saw a header tipped wide by Pocklington before shooting off target after being found by Richardson.
Smith also missed a good opportunity as he lashed a shot over after being found in space on the inside-right of the box, and the second goal just would not come for Shields, with Pocklington denying Stephenson with his feet.
The next chance came the way of Cogdon after a glorious ball from Arca down the right put him through on goal, but as he dribbled into the box, he opted to shoot rather than square to Richardson, and sent the effort over.
Shields did not come under any serious pressure until the closing stages, when Bishops became increasingly direct with set pieces near the halfway line.
One of them led to a James Fairley volley which Connell had covered, and opted to watch go wide.
The Mariners repeatedly cleared their lines, and the only other effort from the Two Blues came when the two former Shields men combined three minutes into stoppage time.
Pocklington took a free-kick 10 yards inside the Shields half and found the head of Riding, but he could only send the ball comfortably wide.
Stephenson could have wrapped up the points with almost the last action of the game, but saw his shot blocked after cutting in from the left.
The clean sheet proved crucial in the end for the Mariners as they closed to within six points of leaders North Shields in Northern League Division One, with three games in hand.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Shaw (c), Petrache, Briggs, Smith (Holden 90), Stephenson, Cogdon, Richardson (Phillips 71), Blinco (Arca 54). Subs not used: Jameson, Morse.
Goal: Richardson (63).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.