South Shields 2-1 Heaton Stannington
By Daniel Prince
Goals from Wayne Phillips and Warren Byrne secured South Shields a third straight win as they beat Heaton Stannington 2-1 at Mariners Park on Tuesday.
It was a hard-fought victory for the Mariners against strong opposition who are expected to challenge for promotion from Ebac Northern League Division Two this season.
Shields made just one change to the starting line-up from the team which thrashed Darlington RA 6-0 on Saturday, with Jonny Wightman replacing Joe Melvin up-front.
In front of a crowd of 279, the hosts started brightly, and had much of the early possession, without creating any clear-cut chances.
The first opportunity fell to Byrne just outside the box after some fine play by Wightman to beat his man on the left, but the striker hit his shot well over the bar.
Adam Sakr was the next Shields player to go for goal after good work down the right flank, and he fizzed an effort wide.
The Mariners suffered a blow when they lost David Foley to injury on 21 minutes, but in Phillips, they did not have a bad replacement.
It took him just five minutes after his introduction to put Shields into the lead.
After being awarded a free-kick 40 yards out on the right, Phillips curled a teasing delivery into the box, where it was missed by everyone before nestling in the centre of the goal.
Another chance arrived soon after when Michael Turner’s mis-hit shot fell for Byrne in the box, but it came at him quickly and he could only divert the ball wide.
At the other end, goalkeeper Ryan Beal did tremendously to keep Shields ahead when he produced a one-handed save to keep out a powerful effort by Dean Imray, and Jon Wright fired the follow-up into the side netting.
Another opportunity arrived for Heaton Stannington when Beal opted to punch a free-kick which had been delivered into the box, and the ball was then diverted past him to Wright, who was unable to finish.
Shields were in need of a second goal to take them into half-time, and it was almost provided by Sakr when, after some tricky play on the right, he fired in a cross-come-shot which just cleared the crossbar.
The two-goal advantage was provided before half-time, though, when Byrne finished superbly. Wightman played the ball inside to him from the left, and he then turned his marker inside and out before drilling a shot into the bottom corner for his fourth goal in three appearances.
Shields went into the break with a 2-0 lead, but that was halved within five minutes of the restart when Brian Dodsworth collected the ball on the inside-right of the box before rifling it into the bottom left corner.
Both sides created chances in what remained of the game, with Sakr having a shot saved for the Mariners before Wright fired over at the other end.
Shields went close to extending their advantage on 68 minutes when away substitute Samuel Grievesen turned the ball just past his own past after a cross from Turner.
Michael Scott shot wide from 25 yards for the visitors, but the Mariners could have put the game to bed with seven minutes left when they attacked with intent, but could not provide the killer pass at the end of the move.
Wright almost punished them on 89 minutes when he whistled a free-kick from 30 yards just past the post, and Shields’ hearts were in their mouths three minutes into stoppage time.
The Mariners got into a mess at the back and surrendered possession in the penalty area, and the visitors appealed strongly for a penalty after a challenge by Beal, but the referee waved away the protests.
Shields were therefore able to hold on to move onto nine points for the season, and they are next in action on Saturday, with a trip to Willington.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Beal, Smith, Turner, Hall, Galpin, McMahon (Chapim 66), Sakr (Melvin 74), Scroggins (c), Byrne, Wightman, Foley (Phillips 21). Subs not used: Young, Riding.
Goals: Phillips (26), Byrne (45).