South Shields 1-3 Radcliffe

South Shields succumbed to their first defeat of the season as an energetic Radcliffe side won 3-1 at 1st Cloud Arena in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

Radcliffe opened the scoring inside the first minute and although Alex Kempster equalised before half-time with his first competitive goal for the Mariners, they could not find their best form after the break.

The visitors ultimately claimed maximum points as Kole Hall clipped them back into the lead and the experienced Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro added his second goal of the night late on.

Shields were left to rue what might have been, with the woodwork struck three times during the 90 minutes by the home side.

They started on the back foot, though, falling behind with less than 60 seconds on the clock when a loose pass in midfield was pounced on by Akpa Akpro, who sent a clinical finish beyond Myles Boney into the bottom corner.

The Mariners almost responded immediately as Robert Briggs’ whipped corner from the left was glanced by the head of Jason Gilchrist and was destined for the net before being cleared off the line. Despite the hosts’ appeals that the ball had either crossed the line or struck the hand of the defender, the referee waved play on.

There was another opportunity for an equaliser soon after as Craig Baxter picked out Kempster midway inside the Radcliffe half and he drove beyond the defence with a fine run before his prodded effort was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Cameron Belford, who had been quick to close the angle.

Shields were finding their feet and had further sights of goal as Darius Osei fired not far wide from 20 yards and Gilchrist was also off target from a similar distance.

They were almost caught out at the other end as a cross from the left was headed out as far as Luca Navarro, who skewed a volley wide from 12 yards when a goal appeared a distinct possibility.

The Mariners had appeared most likely to register the second goal of the game, though, and it arrived via a set-piece on 32 minutes.

Briggs curled in another superb corner from the left and this time Kempster met it at the near post to nod home and bring his side on level terms.

They didn’t have things all their own way in the remainder of the first half with Radcliffe continuing to pose a threat at the other end, but the closest either team came to taking the lead before half-time was a 25-yard strike by Gilchrist which Belford pushed wide.

Shields introduced Josh Gillies for Verstraaten at the break and they almost went ahead within four minutes of the restart as Gilchrist’s teasing low cross from the right begged a tough from Osei, but the forward just could not get enough purchase on the ball and the chance evaporated.

Radcliffe were the next to go for goal with an effort from 25 yards by Matty Crothers which Boney gathered at the second attempt, while at the other end Kempster had another shot saved by Belford.

Arguably the most crucial moment of the game arrived just before the hour mark when the ball was hooked forward to Hall just outside the box on the right and with Boney advancing, the Radcliffe forward expertly dinked it over him and into the net to give his side the advantage for a second time.

Former Grimsby Town, Rochdale and Tranmere Rovers forward Akpa Akpro was a thorn in Shields’ side throughout the game and he fired the hosts another warning when he fizzed an effort across goal which went not far wide of Boney’s right-hand post.

Kempster and Gilchrist meanwhile were consistently the Mariners’ most likely sources of goals and they combined to great effect in the 63rd minute as Kempster’s fine run and cross was met by a glancing shot by Gilchrist which struck the crossbar. Shields kept the ball alive and a second effort from Gilchrist trickled narrowly past the post.

Gillies curled a free-kick not far wide soon after before Gilchrist again fired a brilliant ball across the face of goal which just evaded the stretching Kempster in the middle.

It felt like an equaliser was coming and it almost arrived in stunning fashion when the ball broke to Gilchrist 20 yards out on the right and his venomous strike crashed against the crossbar as he was denied by the woodwork for a second time.

That momentum was eventually lost and Radcliffe had an opportunity to effectively seal the points, but Andrew Owens’ shot from the left of the area curled just wide.

Another huge chance for a Shields leveller came with 10 minutes left when Callum Ross played Gilchrist in on goal down the left, but he was unable to get a shot away and the ball squirmed loose. The Mariners kept it alive and continued probing but an eventual effort from Ross was blocked before Gilchrist headed over.

It would prove to be a vital moment as, just over a minute later, Radcliffe went out of sight with a prodded effort from Akpa Akpro which nestled in the bottom corner.

There was still time for Gilchrist to be frustrated by the woodwork for a third time as he pounced on a fumble by Belford and got a shot away from a tight angle which came back off the post.

There was by then no way back for Shields as their first defeat of the season was registered.

They will hope to bounce back on Saturday when they travel to Bamber Bridge.

South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Smith-Brown (McCamley 75), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Verstraaten (Gillies 46), Briggs, Gilchrist, Osei, Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew, Hodgson.

Goal: Kempster (32).

Attendance: 300.

Image: Kev Wilson.