South Shields 2-0 Chester-le-Street
South Shields moved eight points clear at the top of Ebac Northern League Division Two with a solid 2-0 win over promotion rivals Chester-le-Street Town on Saturday.
David Foley slotted Shields into a half-time lead, and Martyn Coleman wrapped up the points with a bullet header in the second half to send a bumper Mariners Park crowd of 903 home happy.
It was a fourth consecutive league victory for the Mariners, and a 15th win in a row at Mariners Park.
Shields looked comfortable throughout most of the game, but were given an early scare when a powerful free-kick from Craig Marron for the visitors was excellently tipped over by Scott Pocklington.
Soon after that, the Mariners were well in the ascendancy, with Foley having a shot well held by Cestrians goalkeeper Joe Clayton before a defender just got to the ball before Julio Arca at the back post.
The home side suffered a blow in the 18th minute when Barrie Smith was forced off, and that forced a defensive reshuffle. John Grey was introduced from the bench to play at left-back, meaning Michael Turner moved across into the centre and Ibby Hassan went out to right-back.
However, they coped admirably with the change, and almost immediately went a goal up when a Robert Briggs free-kick from deep was headed across the box by Daryll Hall and then nodded not far over by Foley.
Leepaul Scroggins also sent a shot wide from the edge of the box as Jon King’s side continued to press.
They broke the deadlock on 27 minutes after a move which started from a quick throw-out by Pocklington to Arca. He and Scroggins combined to find Grey, and the former North Shields man then motored down the field, moving centrally before playing a ball through to Foley, who took it in his stride and finished well on the inside-left of the box. Lewis Teasdale had shown excellent awareness to allow the ball to slide between his legs to find Foley.
Briggs went close to adding a second when his free-kick from just outside the box on the left bounced before being well held by Clayton.
Clayton again thwarted Shields soon after as Coleman raced down the right before pulling the ball across the box towards Teasdale, who looked sure to tap in before the goalkeeper managed to get there first.
At the other end, Chester-le-Street were restricted well, with Grey blocking an effort by Michael Hepplewhite on a rare foray forward.
As Shields went about extending their lead before half-time, Teasdale showed great control in the penalty area to bring a cross from Grey into his path before being denied by a decent save from Clayton.
Teasdale suffered more frustration a minute before the break when a low cross from Grey was just cut out before he could convert it, while Foley went on a fine run before shooting not far over.
After half-time, the Mariners picked up where they left off, and Hall was denied by a visiting defender as his header was cleared off the line.
Meanwhile, Arca danced his way through on the left of the box before appearing to be fouled, but penalty appeals were waved away by the referee.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder became increasingly influential in the game as the second half progressed, and his excellent lofted ball over the defence was latched onto by Coleman, who was unable to keep his effort down.
Arca also headed wide from another Grey cross, while Briggs went close to making it 2-0 when his low effort from the edge of the box was clawed behind by Clayton.
However, from the resulting corner, the Mariners struck.
Briggs played it short to Grey, and his excellent cross fell invitingly for Coleman in the centre of the box, with the former Penrith striker powering in a header for his fourth goal for the club.
That released any remaining tension for Shields, but the Cestrians were almost handed a lifeline in their next attack, with the league’s top scorer, Scott Heslop, heading just over the bar.
Substitute Christopher Stephenson also missed a big chance as he volleyed wide when a ball from the left fell to him at the back post.
The Mariners were soon back on the attack themselves, though, with a defender heading yet another fine delivery from Grey over his own crossbar, before Briggs almost scored a stunner when he cracked a shot off the bar from distance.
As the game reached the closing stages, Heslop turned on the edge of the box for Chester-le-Street and fired wide.
Foley went agonisingly close to making it three when a through ball from Briggs put him in on goal, but Clayton spread himself well and kept out his low effort with a foot.
The former Hartlepool United frontman also headed wide from a cross by substitute Wayne Phillips, while Mechack Kanda did brilliantly to put Arca through, but he curled one over.
Shields were further boosted with the news that nearest challengers Ryhope CW dropped two points in a 1-1 draw at Billingham Town, meaning their lead at the top was extended to eight points, although Ryhope have a game in hand.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith (Grey 18), Turner, Hassan, Hall, Arca, Foley, Scroggins (c), Coleman (Phillips 83), Teasdale (Kanda 56), Briggs. Subs not used: Young, Ramsey.
Goals: Foley (27), Coleman (67).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.