South Shields 3-3 Darlington RA
By Philip Reay
Despite a first half hat-trick by striker Stephen Ramsey, South Shields were unable to claim all three points as they were held to a three all draw by visitors Darlington RA.
The Mariners are fast becoming the Northern League’s draw specialists as they shared the points for the 11th time this season.
The visitors started the game on the front foot and only a superb one-on-one save by Shields keeper Andy Hunter prevented Aaron Ramsbottom from opening the scoring.
Shields responded instantly and a flowing move out of defence ended with Tony Burnell and Chris Feasey combining to open up the opposition defence, but Burnell was denied by a good save from Calvert in the Darlington goal.
Playing with the advantage of a strong wind at their back, the Mariners kept the opposition pinned in their own half, but were unable to create any clear cut chances until the quarter hour.
A long throw by Colin White was met in the box by Ramsey, but the Shields striker headed the ball just over the bar.
A minute later, they again pressed forward. Ramsey collected the ball on the edge of the box but his shot was blocked for a corner, which was fired into the box by Craig Watson, but Muir was on hand to head clear.
On 20 minutes Shields again went close when a long throw by White was met by Feasey, but his spectacular volley was tipped round the post by Calvert.
A long clearance by Hunter was collected by Feasey on the edge of the Darlington box, but his shot flew wide of the post.
As the first half reached the midpoint, Peter Henderson outpaced the Darlington defence on the right flank before crossing the ball for Feasey.
He controlled the ball before firing a shot at goal, only to be denied by a good save by Calvert.
The Shields pressure bore fruit as the half hour mark approached. They were awarded a free kick on the half way line that was sent into the box by Watson and headed in from close range by Ramsey.
The Mariners advantage was doubled a minute later; again it was Ramsey that provided the vital strike as he fired the ball past Calvert.
With five mins remaining in the first half, Ramsey completed his hat trick. He collected the ball on the right and advanced on goal before chipping the ball over the keeper into the back of the net to take Shields into the break three goals to the good.
At the start of the second half, Ramsey spurned a golden chance to take his tally to four when a superb diving save by Calvert denied the Shields striker.
The visitors, now playing with the advantage of the wind at their back, reduced the arrears on 52 mins.
Hunter made a superb reflex save to deny Ramsbottom, but former Mariner Stephen Allison reacted quickest to fire in from close range.
Darlington began to enjoy a period of pressure, and only a fine save by Hunter prevented Butterworth from further reducing the deficit.
On the hour, Watson fired a corner into the box that was met by Feasey, but his shot flew over the bar.
Within a minute, Shields again went close. Barrie Smith won the ball in the centre of the park before firing a shot at goal that was well saved by Calvert.
The Mariners continued to press forward, and Henderson raced down the left flank before firing a shot at goal that beat Calvert, but unfortunately for Shields the ball hit the post and the danger was cleared.
Darlington were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Shields box and James Muir stepped forward to fire the ball through the defensive wall into the back of the net to reduce the deficit to a single goal and give the Mariners supporters a nervy end to the game.
Second half substitute Liam Clark beat the Darlington defence on the right and cut along the by-line towards goal, but his shot from an acute angle hit the side netting.
With the game approaching the 90 minute mark, a long range shot from Dan Hall was well saved by Calvert.
Five minutes into added time at the end of the game, a long throw by Johnson eventually fell to Butterworth, and with the last kick of the game he restored parity.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Andy Hunter, Dan Hall, Peter Henderson, Colin White, Chris Locke, Luke Richardson, Barrie Smith (Luke Olabode 77), Craig Watson (Liam Clark 68), Stephen Ramsey (Kyle Houshby 81), Tony Burnell, Chris Feasey. Sub not used: Jak Wells.
Goals: Ramsey (30, 31, 40).