South Shields 2-1 Washington
By Philip Reay
South Shields recorded a fourth win in five games with a superb 2-1 victory over second-placed Washington at Peterlee on Saturday.
James Talbot and Stephen Ramsey both scored for the third consecutive game, but the margin of victory did not reflect the dominance of the Mariners, who were frustrated by an outstanding goalkeeping display by Washington’s Neal Atkinson.
Shields started the game on the front foot and soon had the Washington defence under pressure as Talbot and Paul Kane probed down the flanks.
The first chance of the game fell to Kane, and he fired a 25 yard drive towards goal that Atkinson was only able to parry, but Richard Paxton was on hand to hack the ball clear.
A minute later, Shields had a shout for a penalty waved away when Talbot floated the ball into the Washington box and it appeared to be punched clear by a defender.
The home pressure bore fruit on six minutes when Kane chased down a long ball on the left and cut it back from the byline for Talbot, and he made no mistake, driving the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards.
Shields continued to pressurise the Washington defence, but were unable to extend their advantage.
With the game approaching the 20th minute, against the run of play Washington restored parity in controversial circumstances.
Michael Coghlan fired a corner into the box and Shields keeper Niki Lawson appeared to be held down, allowing Joe Walton to fire in.
From the restart, Shields again pressed forward. Kane broke into the box and appeared to be obstructed, but again the referee waved away the penalty claims and the danger was cleared.
Washington broke forward from Atkinson’s clearance and went close to going a goal up. A corner on the left by Coghlan found Greg Swansbury in space, but his header was well saved by Lawson.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, Barrie Smith won the ball in the centre of the park and brushed aside several challenges to go on a 25 yard run towards goal, only to see his shot deflected for a corner.
Shields maintained the pressure on the visitors’ defence. Chris Locke collected the ball on the right flank and turned away from his marker before cutting in towards goal, but his shot was also deflected by a defender for a corner.
The Mariners pressure bore fruit on 33 minutes. Lee Maitland won the ball in the centre of the park and then brushed aside the challenges of three Washington defenders before finding Chris Rue on the right flank. Rue controlled the ball before whipping in a cross that found Ramsey, and his header steered the ball past the outstretched arms of Atkinson into the corner of the net.
Shields continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, but were unable to convert their possession into goals, and the teams went into the half-time break with the hosts holding a slender advantage.
Washington pressed forward at the start of the second half, and within a minute of the restart won a corner on the right. Coghlan floated the ball into the box, but Ben Riding reacted quickest to head the ball clear.
The visitors enjoyed a period of early pressure in the second half, but could not break down the Shields defence.
With the second half just beyond the 10 minute mark, the Mariners began to take control. Talbot collected the ball wide on the right before releasing Kane, and he took it wide of the keeper before driving at goal, only to be denied by a goal-line clearance.
Within a minute, the two Shields goalscorers combined to create another opportunity. Talbot collected the ball on the right flank from Rue and outpaced his marker before crossing to Ramsey, but the striker was denied by a superb save by Atkinson.
On the hour, Washington had a rare foray into the Shields half, but a cross into the box by Coghlan was comfortably cut out by Lawson.
Shields manager Jon King made his first change of the game on 63 minutes, with Chris Renshaw replacing Ramsey.
As the second half approached the midpoint, Washington pressed forward, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box. Coghlan fired the ball towards goal, but a fingertip save from Lawson preserved the Shields advantage.
The Mariners again started to control the game, and Rue, rolling back the years, was proving to be a thorn in the Washington side. On 77 minutes, he again caused problems as he raced down the right flank before crossing for Talbot. He fired the ball towards the right of the goal, and a wicked deflection sent it towards the top left, but Atkinson changed direction to make a superb save, tipping it over the bar.
With 10 minutes, remaining Shields made their second change, with Alex Kempster replacing Maitland.
A minute after the change, the home side again went close, with Talbot again being frustrated as he had two shots blocked by Atkinson in quick succession.
With the game approaching the 90 minute mark, Talbot floated the ball over the Washington defence for Kane to run onto, but his shot flew inches wide of the post as Shields claimed all three points with a fine 2-1 victory.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lawson, Rue, Turner, Burn, Locke, Riding, Smith, Maitland (Kempster 80), Ramsey (Renshaw 63), Kane, Talbot. Subs not used: Fixot, Ward, Feasey.
Goals: Talbot (6), Ramsey (33).
WASHINGTON: Atkinson, Paxton, McGuinness, Swansbury, Callaghan, Wardle, Walton, Coghlan, Winn, Davison, Grant. Subs (from): Cassidy, McArdle, Fairley, Clark, Dixon.
Goal: Walton (18).