South Shields 1-0 FC United of Manchester
A late goal by Josh Gillies saw South Shields edge an entertaining and hard-fought encounter with FC United of Manchester at 1st Cloud Arena.
Gillies struck seven minutes from the end after some great work by fellow substitute Will McCamley as the Mariners secured an important three points which they just about deserved on the balance of play.
The game was not quite the goal-fest which ensued between these sides in March, when Shields emerged 5-3 winners, but it remained a high-quality tussle full of action between two fine teams who will hope to again be battling it out at the top of the table this season.
Although it was a relatively even game it was Shields who created the better opportunities and their first sight of goal came in the ninth minute as Alex Kempster’s drive from distance was deflected wide.
Both sides were intent on playing attractive football and there was some end-to-end action, with the Reds going close on 13 minutes when Jordan Simpson’s powerful low effort from 20 yards went not far past Myles Boney’s post.
Jamie Sterry and Jack Hindle were making their first league appearances for Shields and they linked up well with Jason Gilchrist before Sterry found himself in space on the right of the box, but his dangerous cross was cut out just before Kempster could slide it home.
Gilchrist had netted three times in two appearances against his former club last season but suffered a frustrating night in front of goal on this occasion. His first opportunity came after the Mariners broke well and Callum Ross dinked the ball superbly into his path, but his effort was blocked.
He did force a save from Dan Lavercombe soon after as he fired goalwards from a tight angle, and Blair Adams also forced a good stop from the visiting goalkeeper after some bright play down the Shields left.
Boney was called into action twice in the closing stages of the first half but was not seriously troubled and it was the Mariners back in the ascendancy after the break.
Ross was the first to threaten the FC United goal with a decent run inside from the right which resulted in a left-foot shot which went not far past the post.
Kempster went closer still when, after receiving the ball from Robert Briggs with his back to goal, he flicked it three times before swivelling and hitting an effort which crashed against the post.
It was a lively period of the match which featured chances and half opportunities at both ends, with Shields’ best two openings falling to Gilchrist as he was twice played in on goal. Lavercombe was equal to his first effort and the striker pulled his second chance wide.
The Mariners continued to be frustrated when captain Jon Shaw’s header was cleared off the line and Briggs had two shots saved, while a low ball across the box by Gillies just evaded a touch as time started to slowly slip away.
The vital moment eventually arrived on 83 minutes as McCamley ghosted into some space in the box, turned well and forced a decent reaction stop by Lavercombe only for the ball to break to Gillies, who showed good composure to finish from close range.
Shields saw out the remainder of the 90 minutes well to claim a third consecutive clean sheet as they climbed to eighth in the table.
Next up is a home tie against Colne in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Sterry, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Hindle (Gillies 55), Turnbull (Verstraaten 89), Gilchrist (McCamley 80), Briggs, Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Baxter.
Goal: Gillies (83).
Image: Kev Wilson.