South Shields 1-0 Norton and Stockton Ancients
By Philip Reay
South Shields earned all three points on Saturday with a narrow victory over Norton & Stockton Ancients at Peterlee in a game that was spoilt by a strong wind throughout the 90 minutes.
Shields started the game with the wind at their back, and immediately had the visitors on the back foot.
Inside the first minute, Stephen Ramsey dispossessed Matthew Bell and moved towards goal, but he was fouled on the edge of the box.
Liam Clark stepped forward to take the resulting free kick and curled the ball round the defensive wall, but the ball flew just over the Norton bar.
Neither side was able to take control of the game as they tried to come to terms with the wind blowing straight down the pitch.
As the game approached the 10th minute, Norton broke forward and Michael Jameson fired the ball into the Shields box, but Ben Riding was on hand to head the ball clear.
Norton were finding it difficult to break out of defence as Shields pressed forward, however, despite their territorial advantage, Shields were unable to trouble Knight in the Norton goal.
On the quarter-hour, Shields were awarded a free kick 40 yards from goal. Ben Riding sent the ball into the Norton box where Colin White rose above the defence to head the ball towards goal, but with Knight beaten, a defender was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
From the clearance, the ball fell to Nick Martin, and he raced down the left flank before cutting in towards goal, but as he shaped to shoot he was dispossessed by a superb tackle by Riding and the danger was cleared.
In White and Riding, Shields have two exponents of the long throw, and on 23 minutes White launched a throw from the halfway line into the box, where it was met by Riding, but he headed the ball wide of the post.
A minute later, Riding returned the favour as he sent the ball into the box for White, but his header was collected by Knight in the Norton goal.
Shields continued to press forward. Dan Hall collected the ball on the right flank and turned past his man before firing the ball towards Clark, but he failed to trouble Knight as he headed wide.
As Shields pressed forward, they were caught on the counter as Martin collected a long ball over the defence before racing towards goal, but he was denied by a superb point blank save by Jak Wells in the Shields goal.
With the game approaching the 40th minute, Shields were awarded a free kick wide on the right. Luke Richardson fired the ball into the box, but it was headed clear by Mulligan only as far as Tito Davidson, and he clipped the ball towards goal, but the ball flew just over the bar.
In the closing minute of the half, Adam Burnicle outpaced the defence on the right but his shot was blocked by Michael Joseph for a Shields corner.
The last action of the half saw White fire a free kick into the box for Ramsey, but he headed the ball over and the sides went into the break all square at 0-0.
At the start of the second half, Shields again pressed forward as Burnicle raced past two defenders before advancing on goal, but he fired his shot straight into the hands of Knight in the Norton goal.
Norton, now playing with the advantage of the wind at their back, began to enjoy a period of pressure, as Michael Jameson and Martin ran at the Shields defence, but they were unable to break through the Shields defence and were limited to long range shots that did not trouble Wells.
Again the wind was dominating proceedings as the game descended into a battle of long balls, with neither side able take control of the game.
On the hour, Shields manager Jon King made the first changes of the afternoon, with Ben Clarey and Shaun Smith replacing Hall and Clark.
With the second half at the midpoint, Shields broke out of defence. Brian Rowe played the ball into the path of Richardson, and he raced down the left flank before releasing Burnicle and he in turn found White in space on the edge of the box, but he fired his shot straight at Knight.
Shields began to impose themselves on the game, but their only reward was a series of corners that the Norton defence dealt with comfortably.
With 70 minutes on the clock, Shields were awarded a free kick just inside the Norton half.
Richardson fired the ball into the box where it was met by Davidson, and he headed in from close range for his first goal for the club to give the Mariners the lead.
Shields then had to repel a series of attacks by Norton as they looked to try and restore parity, and on 75 minutes Daniel O’Brien fired a shot from the edge of the box that flew just over the Shields bar.
Within two minutes, O’Brien then launched a long throw into the Shields box, but Wells was alert to the danger as he punched the ball off the head of Karl Charlton.
In the closing stages of the game, Shields substitutes Smith and Clarey combined on the right, but Clarey saw his shot turned round the post for a corner.
With the game into added time, Shields again went close as Burnicle played the ball into the path of Tony Burnell, but his shot was comfortably saved by Knight and Shields held on to claim the points with a 1-0 victory.
Shields are next in action at West Allotment Celtic on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Tow Law Town on Saturday for what will be the Lawyers’ 3000th Northern League game.