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South Shields A-A Morpeth Town: Game abandoned as floodlights fail

A pulsating Buildbase FA Vase tie between South Shields and Morpeth Town was abandoned at Mariners Park on Saturday as the floodlights failed.

The lights went out moments after Liam Henderson had curled the holders into a 4-2 lead against the 10 men of Shields, who had seen Julio Arca dismissed in the first half.

It is at this stage unclear whether the game will be replayed.

The match itself was a tremendous advert for non-league football, with the two sides going nose-to-nose and playing at a lightning quick pace. The tie certainly lived up to the billing in front of a crowd of 1,545.

Morpeth started the brighter of the two teams, but Shields struck against the run of play in the seventh minute.

The Mariners went more direct as Liam Connell launched a ball forward which was flicked on by Carl Finnigan, and David Foley got on the end of it before firing into the bottom corner to continue his excellent form.

Shields’ best spell of the game followed, and Craig Baxter sent a shot narrowly wide before the visiting defence scrambled the ball out for a corner when a Foley pass looked set to be tapped in by Finnigan.

A number of other half opportunities also came and went, before Morpeth dragged themselves back on level terms in the 21st minute.

Keith Graydon pounced on a loose ball and played in the always dangerous Sean Taylor, who hit low into the net for the Highwaymen.

Shields rallied, and went close twice through Jon Shaw and Arca, with Shaw seeing a header cleared away from the six-yard box, while Arca sent a volley wide.

At the other end, Morpeth had opportunities to go into the lead before half-time, but could not find a way past the Mariners.

First Shaw stabbed away an effort from Ben Sayer, and then Connell made a fine save from Stephen Forster to keep the score level.

A key moment arrived in first half stoppage time when Arca was involved in a coming together with Henderson on the touchline.

Both players went to ground, and minutes after Arca had been controversially shown a first yellow card, he was handed a second, with the Mariners left to play the second half with 10 men.

Morpeth threatened in the early stages of the second half, with Sayer seeing a header saved by Connell.

But it was Shields who wrestled themselves back into a winning position seven minutes after the break.

A Finnigan header was acrobatically cleared off the line by Graydon, but the Mariners kept the ball alive and Shaw sent a ball through which was diverted into the path of Michael Richardson, who forced it beyond the line to spark joyous scenes at Mariners Park.

Morpeth’s response was instant, and Henderson cut a shot not far wide before they levelled in the 55th minute.

Mark Doninger had an effort cleared off the line but the ball broke the way of former Shields left-back Michael Turner, who drilled it low and hard into the corner.

Karl Dryden made a good stop from Foley as the Mariners looked to go back into the lead, while there was controversy as a penalty appeal for a challenge on Finnigan was waved away, and a free-kick was awarded to the visitors.

Within two minutes, Morpeth went ahead for the first time as a cross was half-cleared to Graydon on the edge of the box, and he smashed it into the roof of the net.

Shields had much work to do, but looked to have been handed a lifeline with 18 minutes left when the referee showed Turner what he thought was a second yellow card for a challenge on Gavin Cogdon, and produced the red.

However, after consulting with his assistants, it became clear that Turner had in fact only been booked once, and so he was able to remain on the field.

More controversy followed moments later when Richardson appeared to have been fouled in the area, but the officials turned down the huge penalty appeal.

The Mariners were still not dead in the game, and Robert Briggs was only inches away from connecting with a Cogdon ball across the box as he tried to slide home.

At the other end, substitute Paul Robinson bent a shot over, before Henderson curled a superb effort in off the bar to put the Highwaymen 4-2 in front.

However, as he burst away to celebrate, the floodlights went out.

Despite over 45 minutes spent attempting to get them working again, it proved to be to no avail, and the referee made the decision to abandon the game.

The club is now awaiting guidance from the FA as to what happens next.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Nicholson (Scroggins 77), Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Briggs, Phillips, Finnigan (Cogdon 65), Stephenson (Richardson 28), Foley. Subs not used: Smith, Holden.

Goals: Foley (7), Richardson (52).

Red card: Arca (45+1).

Attendance: 1,545.

WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.