South Shields 2-3 Willington
By Daniel Prince and Philip Reay. Match sponsored by: O’Brien Waste Recycling Solutions.
Willington came from behind to inflict a third straight defeat on South Shields with a stoppage time goal at Peterlee.
David Conroy had given the Mariners a half-time lead, but after Willington turned things around in the second half, Alex Kempster equalised with 10 minutes left.
However, James Seymour struck a minute into second half stoppage time as the visitors took all three points from Eden Lane.
Shields – who started the game without a recognised striker – began on the front foot, and a flowing move on the right involving Chris Rue and Barrie Smith ended with an Andy Renton shot from the edge of the box that flew just wide.
The hosts maintained the pressure, and a minute later a short corner by Steven Graham found Chris Feasey, but his cross-shot landed on the roof of the net.
The Shields pressure bore fruit on the quarter-hour mark. Smith turned away from his marker before sending a cross-field ball that found Conroy in space on the edge of the box.
Conroy sent a shot towards goal that floated over the head of David Moffat in the Willington goal as he scored his first goal for the club to give the Mariners an early advantage.
The first break by Willington came on 25 minutes, but former Mariner Adam Burnicle fired his shot well wide of the goal.
Both sides were finding it difficult to play flowing football in windy conditions, and the game entered a period when the ball appeared to be out of play more than it was in.
As the clock approached the 35 minute mark, Smith won the ball just inside the Shields half before embarking on a 40-yard run.
He played it into the feet of Kempster, but his shot on goal was blocked by the Willington defence. The ball fell into the path of Smith, but he too was denied by a Willington block.
With the first half entering the last five minutes, Reece Marshall beat the offside trap, but his shot was superbly saved by Steven Hubery in the Shields goal.
In the last action of the first half, Smith and Kempster combined to create an opening for Smith, but he fired his shot over the bar and the teams went into the break with Shields holding a slim advantage.
They were unable to maintain their standards after the break, though, as Willington set about coming from behind.
Shields gave away a free-kick just outside the box on the right seven minutes into the second half, and although the Mariners players claimed there had been no foul, it was to prove costly.
Willington left-back Michael Hillary came forward to take it, and Hubery got a hand to his low, curled effort, but was unable to keep it out.
Soon after, a cross from the right was headed at Hubery by Stephen Howe, but the signs were there that the visitors were starting to take control.
They went in front on 58 minutes when Shields were made to pay for a defensive lapse.
The Mariners gave the ball away deep inside their own half, and Marc Bell skipped into the centre before delicately chipping the ball over the onrushing Hubery and into the net.
Hubery kept out a swerving effort from Marshall as Willington looked to extend their lead, and with Shields looking for inspiration to get back into it, Paul Kane was introduced from the bench.
Shields’ top scorer has been carrying an injury and was unable to start the game, but did make a good impact after being brought on for the injured Andy Renton.
Kane was introduced not long after a Feasey cross from the left had just cleared the bar, but it was Willington who would create the next chance.
They worked the ball well and it was eventually played to Daniel Lee on the inside-right of the box, but his sliced effort was kept out by Hubery.
Shields tried to create at the other end, and came close to a breakthrough on 74 minutes, but Conroy’s through ball was cut out by a visiting defender as they maintained their advantage.
That was cancelled out 10 minutes before the end of normal time as Kempster became the second player of the day to net his first goal for the Mariners.
Hubery kicked the ball long and found the head of Kane, who nodded it back to Kempster 25 yards from goal.
First time, he struck a shot which looped in the air before dipping into the bottom corner to bring Shields back on level terms, giving the home side the momentum to push for all three points.
They were always likely to get a chance to win it, and that golden opportunity arrived on 86 minutes.
Feasey’s corner from the right fell perfectly for Rue in the six-yard box, but he was unable to get a clean connection on it as he sent it wide.
Shields would be made to rue that missed chance, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Willington fired a warning shot as the game ticked onto 90 minutes when substitute Stephen Ward drilled wide from the edge of the box.
A minute into stoppage time, they secured their win. An excellent cross from the left by Hillary picked out an unmarked Seymour at the back post, and his fine header back across goal found the corner.
The goal came so late that Shields had little time to muster a response, and Willington did not come under any late pressure as they left Eden Lane with all three points.
The Mariners will hope to pick themselves up quickly from the disappointment, with an Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup quarter-final at Birtley Town lying in wait on Wednesday. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hubery, Rue, Feasey, Locke (c), Burn, Graham (Ward 77), Renton (Kane 70), Smith, Talbot, Kempster, Conroy. Subs not used: Lawson, Ramsey, Bell.
Goals: Conroy (15), Kempster (80).
WILLINGTON: Moffat, Mounter, Hillary, Howe, Weston (c), White, Lee, Seymour, Burnicle, Bell, Marshall. Subs (from): Pinkney, S Ward, Lazonby, Burke.
Goals: Hillary (52), Bell (58), Seymour (90+1).