South Shields 3-5 Darlington RA
By Daniel Prince
A late mini-fightback was not enough for 10-man South Shields as they fell to a 5-3 defeat to Darlington RA at Peterlee.
Shields goalkeeper Brett Wilson was sent off 26 minutes in after the referee adjudged he had handled the ball outside the box, and it always looked set to be an uphill battle from there.
The Mariners responded well to the setback, but the visitors stepped it up in the second half, going 4-0 up with 15 minutes left.
Substitute Adam Sharp struck twice late on for Shields, and Barrie Smith converted a stoppage time penalty, but Mark Sims’ hat-trick had already all but sealed the win for Darlington RA.
Shields had started the better of the two teams, but the visitors created the most clear-cut early chances, with Sims seeing an effort blocked by Chris Locke and Christian Holliday sending a shot across goal wide.
Sims saw a shot deflected not far wide on 14 minutes after being played in by Sam England, before Shields started to create opportunities of their own.
First, a Chris Feasey cross from the left was met strongly by the head of Stephen Ramsey, whose effort went not far past the post.
James Talbot was the next Mariner to go close after being played in by Graham Stephenson’s through ball, but his shot was caught at the second attempt by visiting goalkeeper Peter Wakefield.
Smith’s low effort from 25-yards was deflected into the hands of Wakefield on 19 minutes, and that marked the end of Shields’ brief period of pressure.
James Wilson wriggled free in the box in the 23rd minute for the visitors, and after creating space for himself, his goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by David Halliday.
Just after that, a shot across goal by Jordan Hanratty went not far wide, and on 26 minutes came the moment that changed the game.
After Locke was caught in possession at the back, Sims sent a shot towards goal, which Wilson saved.
However, he was adjudged to have been outside the box, and although Wilson claimed it had struck his chest, he was given his marching orders.
It was a second red card in four games for the goalkeeper for the same offence.
To compound that, Darlington RA went in front from the resulting free-kick, with James Wilson sending a low effort into the bottom corner.
Colin White had been brought on for Stephenson in the aftermath of the sending off, and the natural defender went in goal.
Shields responded well after going a goal and a man down, with debutant Alex Kempster’s cross from the left almost catching out Wakefield, who clawed it away from underneath his crossbar.
David Molloy saw a shot blocked, while his cross from the left on 38 minutes was taken off the head of Ramsey by the goalkeeper.
The Mariners had to show some grit in defence before half-time, with Smith blocking a shot from England and Halliday clearing, while Wilson curled an effort just wide four minutes before the break.
Shields were so nearly brought level on 44 minutes after good play from Ramsey and Molloy, with Smith’s low effort from the edge of the box striking the post.
James Pickering lifted an effort over the bar in stoppage time, but there were positives for the Mariners to build on in the second half.
However, they found themselves under pressure early in the second period, with Hanratty seeing a shot blocked by Halliday.
On 50 minutes, Darlington RA went two up, with a ball over the top finding Sims, who flicked it over White and into the net.
Sims then linked up well with Nathan Wilson in the box four minutes later, and the former then poked the ball in to all but seal the visitors’ victory.
It was almost four two minutes later after a Sims ball to Holliday split the defence, but he somehow skewed the ball wide from in front of goal.
Shields substitute Sharp found Pickering at the other end, but he could only send a weak shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The Mariners remained under pressure at the back, though, with a long-range effort from Nathan Wilson hitting the back of Halliday before going over.
Smith sent a free-kick straight at Wakefield before the visitors went close to grabbing a fourth when White slipped, but he picked himself up to block substitute Michael Barnett’s shot.
That only delayed Darlington RA’s next strike, which arrived on 75 minutes.
Sims’ ball was played perfectly into the path of England, who had broken clear of the Shields defence. He then slotted the ball beyond White to seemingly put the game out of reach for the hosts.
Barnett shot wide a minute later after cutting in from the left, before Sharp grabbed a consolation for the Mariners.
He fired low into the bottom corner from just outside the box with five minutes remaining, but the scoring was far from over.
Darlington RA advanced from the kick-off and were awarded a penalty when Feasey was adjudged to have committed a foul in the box.
Sims sent the spot-kick into the top corner to complete his hat-trick, but the Mariners continued to show character at 5-1 down.
Sharp grabbed his second with another terrific shot on 89 minutes. He was found by Pickering’s cross from the left, and teed himself up before volleying in from 20 yards.
Fellow substitute Abu Salim was fouled in the box just after, and Smith stepped up to slot home a penalty a minute into stoppage time.
Shields had gained some real momentum, but just had too much to do, and were eventually beaten 5-3.
They will hope to bounce back from the defeat on Monday, when they take on Hebburn Town in a South Tyneside derby at the Hebburn Sports and Social Ground. Kick-off is at 11am.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Wilson, Stephenson (White 28), Feasey, Locke, Halliday, Talbot (Salim 67), Kempster, Smith (c), Ramsey (Sharp 50), Molloy, Pickering. Subs not used: Houshby, Marshall.
Goals: Sharp (85, 89), Smith (pen 90+1).
Booked: Pickering, Locke.
Sent off: Wilson (26).
DARLINGTON RA: Wakefield, Cheeseman, Harrison, J Smith, Hickman, N Wilson (c), J Hanratty, Holliday, Sims, J Wilson, England. Subs: Colman, Barnett, Macleod, Pearson, Marshall.
Goals: J Wilson (29), Sims (50, 54, pen 87), England (75).