South Shields 2-2 West Allotment Celtic
By Daniel Prince
Ten-man South Shields took a deserved point against high-flying West Allotment Celtic after a pulsating game at Peterlee.
Shields twice found themselves behind but showed tremendous fighting spirit, and were the better side after being reduced to 10 just before half-time.
For the third game in succession, the Mariners scored a crucial late goal, with debutant Peter Henderson’s cross-cum-shot deflecting past the West Allotment goalkeeper four minutes from time.
Henderson was one of three debutants for Shields, with Daniel Hall and Peter Kane also making their bows.
However, the game could not have started much worse for Jon King’s side.
The visitors started brightly, and on the minute mark a cross from the right was expertly volleyed home by Chris Douglas to give them the lead.
Shields were struggling to get into the game early on, although Richard Logan did see an effort flash wide and Adam Burnicle’s effort was palmed away by West Allotment keeper Ryan Beal on 13 minutes.
Andy Hunter was the busier of the two stoppers at this stage, though, and kept Shields in it.
First, he did excellently to tip wide a header from Paul Stoneman from a Sean Reid long throw, while on 29 minutes he produced a fantastic fingertip save to deny the same player from another throw.
On 32 minutes, a superb double save from Hunter again denied the promotion-chasing visitors.
Substitute David Dormand’s terrific through ball put Liam Hudson through on goal, but Hunter denied him, and then the goalkeeper did brilliantly to stop the rebound from the same player.
In truth, West Allotment were proving to be much the better side, and when Shields were reduced to 10 men just before the break, the game seemed to be slipping away from the home team.
Captain Barrie Smith was booked by the referee for a foul and then immediately shown a second yellow card for continuing his protestations.
From the resulting free-kick, a penalty was awarded to the visitors, but Reid’s spot-kick was kept out by the brilliant Hunter, who then saw Hudson strike the rebound wide.
At half-time, a new linesman was called for after one of the officials suffered an injury, which resulted in a delay to the start of the second half.
Ten-man Shields returned from the break a different team, though, with Kane seeing an effort deflect just wide, Ben Riding heading a Luke Richardson free-kick just past the post and Stephen Ramsey seeing a header saved well down low.
However, the Mariners continued to dominate the proceedings, and on 74 minutes, got their reward.
Kane bamboozled West Allotment defender Stephen Little, and when he flicked the ball back, he was clearly brought down and a penalty was awarded.
Ramsey slightly mis-hit his spot-kick, but it found its way into the bottom corner to give Shields the leveller their second half play had richly deserved.
A penalty appeal for handball three minutes later for the Mariners was waved away, before West Allotment regained their lead.
On 80 minutes, Tony Lancaster’s flick found Reid, who slammed home from the right of the box and beat Hunter at his near post.
Such was Shields’ belief, though, that they still went on to take something from the game.
A shot from Henderson on the left was deflected past Beal to make it 2-2, but the drama was not yet over.
Hunter was forced to come out of his goal on the 90-minute mark after a ball through the middle, and after a ricochet the ball fell to Lancaster, whose effort was just off target.
Shields eventually cleared the danger, and had they conceded a winner at the death, it would have been a totally undeserved defeat.
The point was a welcome one for the Mariners, particularly after going down to 10 men and considering the draw took West Allotment up to second in the table.
For Shields, it is now one loss in 12 league games, and if they can repeat this second half performance in future games, they seem certain to finish higher than their current 12th-place position.
Next up for King’s side is a home league game against Darlington RA on Saturday, with the kick-off at 3pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hunter, Hall (Bulman 82), Henderson, Brown, Riding, Richardson, Burnicle (Locke 68), Smith (c), Ramsey, Logan (White 45), Kane. Subs not used: Feasey, Olabode.
Goals: Ramsey (pen 74), Henderson (84).
Sent off: Smith (44).