South Shields 2-3 Norton and Stockton Ancients
By Philip Reay
South Shields were beaten by the odd goal in five by Norton and Stockton Ancients – one of the favourites for promotion – on Saturday.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs, Norton opened the scoring inside five minutes as Harrison Davies collected the ball on the left flank before playing the ball into Michael Jameson on the edge of the box, and he fired a low drive past Jake Cunningham in the Shields goal.
Shields responded well to the setback, and Steven Graham won the ball in the centre of the park before releasing Abu Salim, who outpaced his marker, but his shot flew over the bar.
The hosts continued to pressurise the Norton defence as James Talbot combined with Salim to create an opening for David Molloy, but he saw his shot parried by David Knight in the Norton goal.
The ball fell into the path of Stephen Ramsey, but once again Knight reacted quickly to parry the shot and the danger was cleared.
As the game approached the 10 minute mark, Salim broke down the left flank and cut in towards goal, but his cross was deflected for a corner. Graham floated the ball into the box towards Molloy, but he saw his shot blocked by the outstretched leg of Dale Mulligan for Norton.
Shields were enjoying a sustained period of pressure, but were unable to break through a resolute Norton defence.
Graham again won the ball in the centre of the park before driving a 25 yard effort at goal that Knight only just got a finger on to tip the ball round the post.
On the quarter-hour mark, a Graham corner was met by Aron Burn inside the box. The Shields defender headed the ball towards the bottom corner, but again Knight was on hand to turn the ball round the post.
Shields manager Jon King was forced into an early change as Molloy limped off the park following a heavy challenge and was replaced by new signing Craig Roberts.
As the first half approached the midpoint, Norton broke forward, and a throw on the right the ball fell to Rocky Andrews on the angle of the box. He fired a shot on the turn that flew through a crowd of players and into the net to double the visitors’ advantage.
The second goal spurred the visitors on, and a minute later Tom Bligh found Andrews in space, but the Norton striker snatched at his shot and the ball flew wide of the post.
Norton maintained the pressure on the Shields defence. Davies outpaced the defence on the left flank before pulling the ball back for Jameson, and he rifled a shot towards goal that Cunningham tipped over the bar.
Shields started to come back into the game as the half entered the closing minutes. Alex Kempster combined with Roberts to release Paul Kane, but his shot flew wide of the post.
James Talbot collected the ball on the right flank and outpaced the defence before crossing for Ramsey, but again he was denied by a superb reflex save by Knight.
Within a minute, Shields pressed forward again as Salim found Kempster in space, but his shot was comfortably saved by Knight.
In time added on for stoppages, Norton won a corner and Mulligan rose above the defence to head in to give the visitors a three-goal advantage going into the half-time break.
The Mariners started the second half on the front foot, and Ramsey and Talbot combined to release Salim, but he saw his shot blocked by Mulligan and the ball was cleared.
From the clearance, Norton were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Andrews fired the ball high over the bar.
Shields made their second change of the game, with Barrie Smith replacing Graham seven minutes into the half.
Playing with the wind at their back, the home side maintained the pressure on the Norton defence. Smith played the ball wide to Salim, and he raced past his marker before curling a shot towards goal that was well saved by Knight.
As the second half approached the 10 minute mark, Ramsey collected a ball from Talbot in the centre of the field and he shrugged off a challenge before releasing Roberts, but he fired his shot over the bar.
On the hour, Shields made their final change as Kempster made way for Lee Maitland.
Maitland was in the thick of the action immediately as he collected the ball inside the Norton half and broke through two tackles before rifling the ball towards goal, only to be denied by a diving save by Knight.
Kane sent the resulting corner into the box, and Ramsey rose above the defence to head the ball towards goal beyond the reach of Knight, only to see Mulligan hook the ball off the line.
The Shields pressure eventually bore fruit on 63 minutes. Salim and Chris Feasey combined on the left, and Feasey whipped in a superb cross that was met by Ramsey, who headed in from close range.
From the restart, the Mariners won the ball and again broke forward as Ramsey turned provider. He played the ball to Kane, and he fired the ball beyond the reach of Knight to make it 2-3.
Try as they might, Shields were unable to create the vital breakthrough as the Norton defence held firm as Maitland, Ramsey and Kane all had shots saved by Knight.
With the game entering the closing stages, Smith broke through the Norton defence only to be scythed down by Karl Charlton. Both players slid into Ramsey, and he was shown a red card.
From the resulting free-kick, Kane fired the ball over the bar and the visitors left with all three points.
Shields are next in action at Eden Lane on Tuesday night when they entertain Easington Colliery in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Cunningham, Talbot, Feasey, Burn, Evans, Graham (Smith 52), Salim, Kempster (Maitland 60), Ramsey, Molloy (Roberts 20), Kane. Subs not used: Sharp, Stephenson.
Goals: Ramsey (63), Kane (64).
Sent off: Ramsey (90).