South Shields 4-2 Whitley Bay: Over 1,400 watch Mariners win thriller
South Shields won a thrilling six-goal encounter with Whitley Bay on Saturday as over 1,400 fans packed into Mariners Park on Non-League Day.
A spirited Bay side – who drew 3-3 with the Mariners in the reverse fixture a fortnight earlier – fought back from a goal down to take a 2-1 lead into half-time.
However, Shields pressed ahead in the second half, with substitutes Wayne Phillips, Carl Finnigan and Robert Briggs all playing a major part as they forced a 4-2 victory for a fourth consecutive win.
The crowd of 1,409 was entertained throughout on another terrific day at Mariners Park.
Shields manager Jon King kept faith with the starting line-up which defeated Penrith 2-0 on Monday, and they looked in mean mood again in the opening stages.
However, it was the visitors who created the first opportunity, with Joss Carmichael having to keep out an effort from Alex Kempster early on.
It appeared the Mariners had broken the deadlock in the ninth minute when Julio Arca’s free-kick was headed in via the post by Ben Clark, but the celebrations were cut short when the linesman’s flag was raised.
Shields had to wait just two more minutes to go in front, though, and it was no surprise to see who provided the breakthrough.
David Carson’s deft ball into the box was difficult for the away back line to deal with, and a defender headed it into the path of Jon Shaw, who made no mistake as he rifled it into the bottom corner.
The Mariners went on to dominate the next period of the game, keeping possession well while working their way into dangerous areas.
However, they were unable to add a second goal, despite the best efforts of Arca, who wowed the crowd with one particular piece of skill on the right touchline.
Against the run of play, Bay – who were unbeaten in the league going into this match – equalised when a fine run and cross from the left by Kempster was turned in by Adam Shanks, who showed great desire to get on the end of it.
The hosts tried to immediately retake the lead, and Shaw went closest when his powerful header from a corner was excellently saved by Tom Flynn, while Arca had a shot blocked.
It was Bay who ended up taking an advantage into half-time, despite Craig Baxter and David Carson having opportunities at the other end.
The goal came from another left-wing cross by Kempster, with Shanks getting between the Shields defenders to head in and double his tally for the afternoon.
The home side did not have long to respond before half-time, but could have drawn level as the game ticked into stoppage time, only for Flynn to keep out a low effort from David Palmer.
Three minutes into the second half, Bay almost went 3-1 up, with Kempster rattling a shot against the crossbar after a well-worked move before Carmichael kept out the follow-up from Aiden Haley.
That would have given Shields a mountain to climb, and they took advantage of their reprieve as they improved the longer the second half went on.
David Carson was the first to threaten as he made space for himself in the box before hitting a shot which was blocked by a defender.
Finnigan’s introduction from the bench for his home debut gave Shields an added attacking impetus, and within two minutes of being brought on, he flashed a low effort which was deflected inches wide.
Bay remained dangerous, and went agonisingly close to scoring again as they attacked with purpose and the ball bounced to Kyle Fryatt, who powered a low shot just past the upright.
Shaw and Finnigan went close for Shields before a game-changing double substitution in the 66th minute, with Phillips and Briggs coming on for Leepaul Scroggins and Louis Storey.
Briggs hit a shot not far wide after a cut-back from Arca, while it took just four minutes after being brought on for Phillips to grab the equaliser.
It came following some superb play by Arca as he clipped a stunning ball out to the right flank for Palmer, who drove forward before his low shot was parried by Flynn and slid in by Phillips.
Shields had real momentum behind them at this stage and with the crowd urging them on from the sidelines, the visitors struggled to deal with the onslaught.
The ground erupted with 14 minutes remaining when Briggs turned his way past his man before curling in a superb delivery which was flicked on by Finnigan and then rocketed into his own net by Bay defender Stephen Gibson.
Soon after, Angelos Eleftheriadis was shown a red card by the referee for two bookable offences, and the Mariners made the most of their one-man advantage.
Baxter and Briggs delighted the crowd by pressing from the front, winning the ball back in a series of 50-50 challenges before it was forced through for Finnigan, who slotted it into the bottom corner.
Briggs and Shaw both had opportunities to add a fifth, while at the other end Carmichael kept the margin of victory at two with an impressive late save.
The players were given a superb reception as they returned to the dressing rooms after the game, and they will now hope for a fifth consecutive victory on Tuesday as Washington visit Mariners Park for a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Carmichael, Baxter, Arca, Storey (Phillips 66), Clark, Danny Carson, Smith (Finnigan 52), Scroggins (c) (Briggs 66), Shaw, David Carson, Palmer. Subs not used: Connell, Morse.
Goals: Shaw (11), Phillips (70), Gibson (own goal 76), Finnigan (82).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.