Stafford Rangers 1-1 South Shields: Briggs seals another late point
Robert Briggs equalised from the spot in stoppage time for the second game in a row as South Shields remained in the Evo-Stik Premier Division title hunt on Saturday.
Briggs converted a penalty in the 92nd minute at Stafford Rangers, cancelling out a goal scored by the hosts midway through the first half.
The result kept Shields three points behind leaders Farsley Celtic, although Warrington Town have now leapfrogged them into second after they won at Stalybridge Celtic.
The Mariners host Scarborough Athletic on Monday in a game they are likely to need to win to stay in title contention.
On arguably the most testing playing surface they have encountered all season, Shields were forced to adapt their tactics at Marston Road.
Their start was effective enough, with Nathan Lowe sending a free-kick over from distance and Luke Daly shooting wide after a ball in from the left by David Foley.
But it was Stafford who took the lead in the 25th minute.
A long throw from the left by Tom Thorley was nodded down to the feet of Theo Bailey-Jones, and he tucked the ball into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
A win for the hosts would have seen them all but ensure survival in the league for another season, but they were almost pegged back immediately when a strike from outside the box by Robert Briggs took a deflection which carried it just wide.
Stafford almost doubled their advantage 11 minutes before half-time when Bailey-Jones let fly from distance, but Liam Connell made a tremendous one-handed save to tip the ball over the bar.
Another opportunity came and went for the home side as Ben Mills forced his way through on the right of the area before drilling a low ball which Connell did well to kick away.
Shields’ best chance to draw level came eight minutes into the second half when a flick-on by Connor Bell was latched onto by Foley, but Stafford goalkeeper Adam Siviter narrowed the angle and kept out his effort.
The Mariners were mainly reduced to half-chances, and another of them went begging as a ball over the top from Jon Shaw found Daly, but he fired past the post.
Bell also saw a shot blocked from a good position as Shields continued to be frustrated.
Stafford almost sealed the points as the game ticked into stoppage time as Jake Charles hit an effort just wide, but there was to be one last twist.
A ball over the top found substitute Josh Gillies, who touched it around Siviter before being bundled to the ground by a defender just inside the box.
Briggs stepped up and picked out the bottom corner with a nerveless penalty to salvage another point for Shields.
They now know they must, surely, beat Scarborough to stay in contention for the title heading into their final game, away to Gainsborough Trinity next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter (Adams 68), Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Lowe, Foley (Gillies 63), Briggs, Harmison, Daly, Bell (Mason 81). Subs not used: Mouanda, Turnbull.
Goal: Briggs (pen 90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.