South Shields 1-1 Grantham Town: Mariners held by visitors
Craig Westcarr struck a 73rd minute equaliser as Grantham Town held South Shields to a 1-1 draw at Mariners Park in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 on Saturday.
Shields had been on course to win when Nathan Lowe struck his first goal of the season early on.
But they were pegged back by the Gingerbreads in the second half after the visitors produced a dogged performance, with the Mariners seeing their lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division cut to five points.
Shields were looking to bounce back from their 3-1 loss at Witton Albion a week earlier, and introduced Jason Gilchrist into the starting line-up in place of David Foley.
They started positively and had two early opportunities to open the scoring, with Gary Brown seeing a thunderbolt from just inside the area blocked before Sanmi Odelusi fired wide.
Grantham grew into the game, though, and almost went ahead in the sixth minute when Danny Racchi’s corner found the head of Rob Atkinson and he nodded the ball against the post.
The visitors created another chance from a Racchi set-piece as his corner fell to James Berrett, who forced Myles Boney into a smart low save.
It was an open start to the match and Shields were the next to go close as Odelusi guided a cross from the right by Robert Briggs narrowly past the post.
The opening goal arrived on 16 minutes after some impressive interplay between Lowe and Gilchrist on the right of the box before Lowe curled a low effort into the bottom corner from 20 yards to open his account for the season.
After such a frenetic start the game settled into more of an even rhythm as the first half progressed in increasingly wet conditions.
Shields carried their 1-0 lead into half-time and almost doubled their advantage two minutes into the second half when a sliced defensive clearance fell into the grateful arms of Grantham goalkeeper Sam Andrew.
The Mariners went closer to adding a second in the 57th minute when Gilchrist beat the defence with a superb ball through to Craig Baxter on the right of the area, but his drilled effort was well saved by the legs of Andrew.
Grantham fired a warning that they still possessed a threat when a sweet strike from distance by Racchi tested Boney, and they scored what proved to be a pivotal equaliser with 17 minutes remaining.
Shields failed to clear a long throw from the right and Westcarr pounced with a first-time volley into the bottom corner.
Stung by that blow, the Mariners reacted strongly and attacked immediately from the restart, with Briggs shooting over from the edge of the box within a minute.
Another opportunity came as Lowe got in down the right and fired in a low cross which Andrew got a hand to before Gary Brown headed wide.
As Shields pressed forward in search of a winner they were almost caught out at the other end as Remaye Campbell took aim from 20 yards, but Boney got down well to make a superb fingertip stop to keep his side level.
The home team’s best chance for a winning goal came a minute before the end of normal time as substitutes Lee Mason and Foley combined, with Mason getting in behind on the right of the box before squaring the ball across goal for Foley, who looked set to be left with a tap-in but could not quite get the contact he needed as claims for a penalty were waved away.
Shields continued to press for a goal but could not create any more clear-cut opportunities as Grantham saw out five minutes of stoppage time to return home with a point.
The Mariners will look to bounce back on Wednesday when they travel to Ryton and Crawcrook Albion in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Baxter (Thurston 72), Briggs (c), Gilchrist, Lowe (Foley 78), Odelusi (Mason 55). Subs not used: Charlton, Wokoma.
Goal: Lowe (16).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.