South Shields 3-1 Stokesley
By Daniel Prince. Matchball sponsored by Mike Rayner and his son Jevon.
South Shields earned a dramatic 3-1 win over Stokesley at Peterlee as they brought the season to a close with a fourth consecutive victory on Friday.
The Mariners had to come from behind at Eden Lane, and secured the three points with two goals in the very late stages.
Ben Riding, Chris Rue and Barrie Smith were on the scoresheet as Shields ended their campaign on a high, securing 15th position in Ebac Northern League Division Two.
Well done lads 4 wins on the spin thank u to every1 at South Shields hope to see you’s next season.
— Barrie smith (@Bazzasmith17) April 24, 2015
With Steven Hubery, Paul Kane and Stephen Ramsey all unavailable, starts were handed to Christopher Davidson, James Talbot and Ryan Bolam.
And it was Shields who started the stronger of the two teams, with Chris Feasey having a shot blocked before Talbot had an effort well saved by visiting goalkeeper Daniel Bowman and Aron Burn nodded wide.
Stokesley grew into the game, and on 23 minutes, they took the lead.
A ball was lifted over the top to Jack Bradbury on the inside-right of the box, and he sent an inch-perfect lob over Davidson and into the net.
Shields appeared shell-shocked, and could have gone 2-0 behind less than two minutes later when Bradbury again got in behind on the right after a swift counter-attack, but this time he cannoned an effort off the far post.
Davidson saved Shields just before the half-hour mark when Matthew Dunford split the home defence and found Connor Campbell bearing down in front of goal.
The goalkeeper closed down the angle, and when the shot came, he was on hand to smother the ball to safety.
The Mariners fought their way back into the game as the rain started to fall heavily, and Bolam bravely got his head on a Feasey cross, but the effort went wide.
Eight minutes before half-time, Smith threaded a ball through for Lee Maitland inside the box, but he was unable to get a shot away and it was cleared as far as Chris Locke, whose powerful low effort was held by Bowman.
The Mariners went even closer soon after when Smith let fly from 25 yards, but his effort arrowed just past the post.
Stokesley went in at the break a goal ahead, and Shields knew they would have to show much improvement after the break.
Within a minute of the restart, it was clear that the hosts had a renewed vigour about them, with a deep free-kick from Michael Turner headed on by Riding to Rue, who headed wide from six yards.
On 48 minutes, Shields got back on level terms as Turner worked the ball onto his left foot on the right before sending in a superb cross which Riding turned home at the back post for his second goal in as many games.
From then, it was almost purely one-way traffic as the Mariners searched for the goal which would nudge them in front.
Smith had a low volley kept out by Bowman, while Rue glanced a header wide.
At the other end, Thomas Mullen headed narrowly wide as he beat Davidson to the ball, and a penalty appeal was waved away as Turner slipped in the box and accidentally collided with Gerard Richardson.
Shields went close just after the hour mark when Feasey conjured space for himself on the inside-left of the area and fired a ball across goal which the onrushing Smith just failed to connect with at the back post.
In the next attack, Bolam’s cross was claimed in front of goal by Bowman, but Rue bundled into him and forced the ball over the line, with the strike ruled out for a foul by the officials.
Talbot and Bolam then combined, with the former scooping an effort wide, while Rue had an effort blocked before Shields manager Jon King made his first change, with Gary Crutwell replacing Maitland.
Bolam went close on 67 minutes when he sent a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards, and Talbot was also frustrated as Bowman kept out his header.
The home side’s patience was being tested, with a number of opportunities coming and going.
Smith went agonisingly close in the 69th minute when he picked up the ball just outside the box on the left and whistled a shot just past the post.
Riding was the next to go close as he prodded a Turner corner just wide, while Rue also had an effort, but his shot after cutting in from the left was always rising, and comfortably cleared the crossbar.
Alex Kempster replaced Feasey for the closing stages, before the Mariners again went close with 10 minutes left.
Bolam whipped in a superb free-kick delivery from the left, but it just evaded everyone and went narrowly wide of the far post.
However, the 17-year-old would later prove to have a decisive say with a free-kick from a similar area.
With a minute left and from almost an identical position to his previous free-kick, Bolam curled in a terrific cross which was glanced on in the centre and struck the hands of Bowman before nestling in the net.
It was initially unclear whether the decisive touch had come from a defender or Rue, who had been playing as a frontman for much of the game.
However, Rue later claimed the goal after getting a crucial flick on the ball, and his intervention proved critical in the game.
As the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark, Crutwell could have made it 3-1 after the ball was played across to him on the right, but his shot went narrowly over.
The gloss was added to the scoreline two minutes into stoppage time, though.
Smith received the ball just outside the box on the left before cutting inside and curling a shot into the far top corner, with Bowman getting a hand on it, but unable to keep it out.
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) April 24, 2015
It gave Shields another fine win to end the season with 53 points.
The club would like to thank everyone – players, staff, committee members and supporters – for their efforts during the 2014-15 season, and looks forward to seeing you all again in 2015-16.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Davidson, Rue, Feasey (Kempster 75), Turner, Burn, Riding, Smith, Locke (c), Maitland (Crutwell 67), Talbot, Bolam. Subs not used: Baker, Fixot.
Goals: Riding (48), Rue (89), Smith (90+2).
Huge thanks to all the players, staff, committee and fans for their efforts this season. Onwards and upwards! — South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) April 24, 2015