South Shields 1-0 Willington (FA Vase)
By Daniel Prince
South Shields made it three home wins in a week with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Willington in the FA Vase.
The Mariners were not as free-flowing as they had been in their thumping wins over Thornaby and Tow Law Town over the last seven days, but Steven Graham’s first half goal was enough.
The victory means they progress to the second qualifying round of the Vase, and will travel to Whitley Bay for that tie.
Willington – who beat the Mariners 2-1 on the opening day of the season – started the better of the two teams at Peterlee.
The ever-dangerous Liam Whitworth was the first threat to the Shields defence, and he shot not far wide after cutting in from the left five minutes in.
Good link-up play between Stephen Ramsey and David Molloy at the other end almost reaped dividends for the Mariners five minutes later, but the latter’s shot was deflected just past the post.
Colin White’s long throws were causing problems for the Willington defence, and a bullet of a delivery from the defender was headed off target by Graham.
The Shields defence was split on 21 minutes, though, and Willington should have taken the lead. Reece Marshall’s ball put Jason White through on goal, but he toe-poked the ball wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Molloy scuffed a shot wide for the hosts, before Shields were forced into a tactical reshuffle when Ramsey was withdrawn due to a groin injury.
Defender David Halliday replaced him, with Chris Locke moving across to right-back, James Talbot switching to right midfield, Andy Renton swapping to the left flank and Paul Kane going up front with Molloy.
The change seemed to work for Shields, who scored the match-winning goal in the 31st minute.
White found Molloy on the left flank, and he played the ball inside for Kane. He did brilliantly to pick out Graham, who arrived late from midfield and found himself in plenty of space inside the box. He wrong-footed the goalkeeper by sending the ball back across the goal, and it rolled into the bottom-left corner.
Shields had a strong penalty appeal waved away in the next passage of play, while Kane had a glorious opportunity on 32 minutes.
Chris Feasey’s pin-point cross from the left gave Kane a free header, but he could only send it over the bar.
This was Shields’ best period of the match, and captain Barrie Smith had a decent chance to make it 2-0 before half-time, but his shot was scuffed and smothered by opposition goalkeeper Stephen Robinson.
Graham almost scored his second within a minute of the restart, but his header from White’s long throw was cleared off the line.
Molloy did some great work on the right on 53 minutes, first winning the ball with a strong challenge before beating the next defender. However, when he opened up some space for himself just inside the box, he could only fire over.
Renton was almost sent through on goal by Molloy soon after, but Robinson was quickly off his line and got there just ahead of the Shields winger.
There was a similar chance for Willington at the other end, with Hubery just getting to the ball ahead of Marshall, who had looked set to sweep the ball home.
Whitworth was desperately unlucky not to bring the visitors level in the 66th minute.
A ball in from the left went straight onto the head of Willington’s No11, but his effort was brilliantly tipped on to the bar at full stretch by Hubery before it bounced out for a corner.
Molloy could have all but put the game to bed 17 minutes before the end. A great move from the Mariners led to Kane playing the ball inside from the right to Molloy, and his powerful shot was superbly palmed wide by Robinson.
Willington were becoming increasingly threatening at the other end, and when Marshall was played through on goal, he looked certain to bring them level. However, White did brilliantly to get across, and produced an excellent tackle to deny Marshall a shot.
Hubery parried Willington substitute Marc Bell’s long range effort as the game entered the final 10 minutes, and then gathered the ball at the second attempt with the attacker advancing.
The closing stages were nervy for the home side, but when Bell cut inside and then skied his shot in the fourth minute of stoppage time, the game appeared to be won.
However, the referee allowed the game to continue into a fifth minute of added time, and the visitors so nearly forced extra-time.
Hubery came out of his box to try and clear the danger, but Willington’s Stephen Howe got to the ball first. He smashed the ball goalwards, and his shot hit the chest of Hubery – if it had hit his hand, it would have been a certain red card for the goalkeeper. The ball bounced out to Marshall, but his rushed effort went well over the top and Shields were able to see out their victory.
The win was a third in a row at Peterlee for the Mariners, and a third clean sheet in that time as well. The Mariners have not conceded since Callum Smith’s goal for Hebburn Town, 318 minutes of football ago.
Shields will play Whitley Bay in the next round of the FA Vase, but first up is an Ebac Northern League Division Two trip to Brandon United on Wednesday. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hubery, Talbot, Feasey, White, Locke, Graham (Salim 67), Renton (Conroy 80), Smith (c), Ramsey (Halliday 27), Molloy, Kane. Subs not used: Stephenson, Kempster.
Goals: Graham (31).
WILLINGTON: Robinson, Mounter, Goodey (Sweeney 46), Lazonby, Howe, Seymour, Lee (Comby 67), Hansom, Marshall, White (Bell 46), Whitworth. Subs not used: Ward, Patton.