Right-back Alex Nicholson feels South Shields’ confidence has been restored after the Mariners ended a three-game winless run on Saturday.
Draws against Trafford and Kendal Town were followed by a home defeat to Scarborough Athletic on New Year’s Day as Shields briefly lost top spot in the Evo-Stik North Division.
A comfortable 2-0 victory at Tadcaster Albion on Saturday put the Mariners back on top of the pile, with a solid team performance getting them back on track.
Ahead of this Saturday’s game at home to Mossley, Nicholson feels the squad are in confident mood again.
He said: “After the Scarborough game, we knew we had to bounce back straightaway to get the momentum going again.
“We were all on the same wavelength and all worked hard ahead of the Tadcaster game, when we knew we needed to get the result in whatever way we could.
“We were solid and restricted their chances by keeping the ball away from them, and when we needed to do the dirty work, we were willing to do that as well.
“That result gives us confidence going into the Mossley game, when we will need to have the same mentality.
“It will be a tough challenge, but as long as we get our preparation right and are in the right frame of mind, hopefully we’ll be OK.”
Mossley gave Shields an extremely difficult challenge in the reverse fixture in October. They held a 2-1 lead until the 87th minute, when goals from Julio Arca and Jamie Holmes turned the game on its head and secured the Mariners a dramatic 3-2 win.
Ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the sides, Shields are top of the league on goal difference from Scarborough Athletic, and Mossley are 13th.
Although Nicholson is not taking too much notice of the table at this stage, he insists the Mariners must be satisfied with their efforts so far.
He added: “You’d rather be the ones being chased than in the chasing pack, but we know we’ve got a big challenge for the rest of the season.
“It’s up to us to maintain the mentality that we’ll stay on top. We don’t want anyone to overtake us and just have to stay in the right frame of mind.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 3pm, and the turnstiles open at 12pm. For full details, click here.
Season tickets and part-season tickets are valid for this fixture, but otherwise admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields hit five past Brighouse Town for the second time this season as they went six points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division on Saturday.
The Mariners went in at half-time with a 2-0 lead after goals from Carl Finnigan and Louis Storey, but Brighouse battled well in the second half, and pulled one back with a strike from Gabriel Johnson.
The hosts’ good spell ended when defender Adam Field was shown a red card for a foul in the penalty area, with Barrie Smith dispatching the resulting spot-kick to restore Shields’ two-goal advantage.
Graeme Armstrong netted his first goal for the club and Alex Nicholson scored late on to seal an ultimately comfortable win for the Mariners against a team they beat 5-0 in August.
Shields started the game strongly, and could have opened the scoring within four minutes when Craig Baxter’s effort from 20 yards was parried to Finnigan, who struck the post with the rebound. The offside flag had already been raised, though.
Finnigan had another chance 10 minutes later as Louis Storey played a superb through ball, but skewed his shot comfortably wide of the target.
He made no such mistake soon after, though. After Jamie Holmes was fouled on the left, Robert Briggs floated in a terrific free-kick which was glanced into the bottom corner by the head of Finnigan, Shields’ top scorer this season.
Brighouse almost levelled things up within a minute when Johnson got in behind, but Liam Connell beat away his effort with his legs.
That was a rare first half opportunity for the hosts, who went a further goal behind a minute into stoppage time, moments after Briggs had seen a shot from distance deflected wide.
The resulting corner saw Briggs curl in another impressive delivery which was this time headed beyond the defenders on the line by Storey as he netted for the second game in a row.
Brighouse had added attacking purpose at the start of the second half, and Rhys Jenkinson’s effort from the edge of the box stung the fingertips of Connell.
Shields looked like they could add a third goal at any moment, though, and almost did that after a sweeping counter-attack which saw Michael Richardson get in behind, and his chip just cleared the crossbar. He was also denied by a fine block less than a minute later.
Brighouse pulled a goal back in the 66th minute when Johnson controlled a cross from the left before firing low past Connell.
The home side enjoyed their best spell of the game as they put the Mariners under pressure in search of an equaliser.
The closest they came to levelling was after an impressive move on the right, with Connell doing well to parry an effort from Aaron Martin.
Their challenge was dealt a major blow with 16 minutes left, though, when defender Field was given a straight red card after a scramble in the area, with the officials ruling that he had denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Smith’s central penalty found the net to restore Shields’ two-goal advantage and put them back into a commanding position.
Ten-man Brighouse could have pulled themselves back into it again soon after, but Smith proved to be their nemesis as he cleared a header from Callum Hall off the line.
The Mariners were well on top in the closing stages, with substitute Matty Pattison pulling the strings.
He played a major part in the final two goals. The first saw him clip a glorious pass beyond the defence for fellow substitute Nicholson, whose ball across the box was slid in by Armstrong as he netted his first goal for the club.
A flick from Pattison also got Smith in behind on the right soon after, and when he pulled it back to his team-mate, Pattison’s effort was destined to find the top corner. On its way in, it struck Nicholson and flew into the opposite corner as the points were wrapped up.
Shields are next in action on Tuesday, when they host Sunderland RCA in the second round of the Durham Challenge Cup, with a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter (c), Lough, Storey, Morse, Briggs, Richardson (Pattison 76), Smith, Armstrong, Finnigan (Nicholson 63), Holmes. Subs not used: Norton, Callaghan, Stephenson.
Goals: Finnigan (23), Storey (45+2), Smith (pen 75), Armstrong (82), Nicholson (86).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields’ incredible 45-match unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday as Colwyn Bay ran out 4-2 winners in EVO-STIK North.
The Mariners had not tasted defeat since November 5, 2016, and had won 44 of their 45 games since then.
However, they gave themselves too much to do in North Wales after falling 3-0 behind in the first half.
Shields tried to launch a second half comeback, and after Alex Nicholson pulled a goal back, they looked to have found a way back into it when they were awarded a penalty.
However, Michael Richardson’s spot-kick was brilliantly saved by home goalkeeper Matt Cooper and Colwyn Bay scored again to make the three points safe.
Substitute Luke Sullivan got on the scoresheet deep into stoppage time for the Mariners, but it was too late for any dramatic fightback.
Shields had started the game well, and created a great chance to open the scoring in just the fourth minute as some tricky play by Jamie Holmes down the left led to a cut-back for Gavin Cogdon, whose effort lacked the power to beat Cooper from eight yards.
The visitors went closer again soon after when a glorious ball into the box by Robert Briggs was headed towards goal by Nicholson. It looped in the air before bouncing back off the crossbar, and the rebound was skewed wide by an off-balance Craig Baxter.
It was a bright start from the Mariners, who created another opportunity when Briggs saw a shot from the edge of the box blocked.
However, they were unable to build on that, and only a fine interception from Jon Shaw prevented Colwyn Bay opening the scoring as he atoned for giving the ball away seconds earlier.
The reprieve for Shields was temporary, though. In the 10th minute, a corner from the right by Louis Barnes was flicked on at the front post by Astley Mulholland and then diverted across the area by Jack Hindle, with captain Sam Barnes on hand to hammer the ball into the net via the bar from close range.
The Mariners looked for an instant response, and Carl Finnigan tried to provide it within 10 seconds of the restart, but his effort from 25 yards went well wide.
Colwyn Bay doubled their lead on 17 minutes as Cooper’s goal kick was flicked on first by Hindle and then Danny Andrews. Mulholland raced onto it and dispossessed Shaw before running through on goal and rifling past Liam Connell.
The Mariners continued to produce some good play in patches, and almost pulled one goal back when Cogdon played Baxter in on the inside-right of the box, and his cross bounced just beyond Finnigan as he seemed set to head it in.
At the other end, the home side’s frontmen continued to cause problems, and Mulholland went close to making it 3-0 as he cut inside before firing a low effort which Connell did well to palm to safety.
Holmes always looked dangerous coming in from the left flank for the Mariners, and another moment of fine play from him almost led to a goal as he tricked his way past a defender and into a great position, only for his pass across goal to be well cleared.
Try as they might, Shields just could not get what could have been a vital goal in the first half.
They went close again when Holmes cut inside from the left and his shot took a deflection before spinning against the post, and then agonisingly away from Finnigan, who was waiting to pounce on the rebound.
Colwyn Bay were awarded a controversial penalty with three minutes remaining in the first half when Hindle went down under a challenge from Shaw. Replays appeared to show that contact – if any – had been made outside the penalty area, but the referee pointed to the spot.
Hindle himself stepped up to take the penalty, and sent Connell the wrong way to secure a three-goal lead for his side at the interval.
It almost got worse for Shields just a minute into the second half as Andrews excellently played in Hindle, but he hammered the ball wide to let the visitors off the hook.
The Mariners started to gather momentum after that, and their first chance fell the way of Nicholson, whose sweet strike was too central and was well held by Cooper.
Then came another moment of controversy after some impressive interplay led to Holmes bearing down on goal, and just as he was about to pull the trigger, he appeared to be knocked off balance and fell to the floor. The referee waved play on.
Shields finally got on the scoresheet just after the hour mark to breathe new life into their comeback bid. A Briggs cross from the right was sent across goal by Cogdon and then brilliantly fired home from a tight angle by Nicholson as he scored his second goal for the club.
It would be wrong to say that it was all one-way traffic after that, though, as Colwyn Bay had good opportunities to make the points safe.
Hindle created space for himself in the area and pulled the ball back to Mulholland, whose effort was cleared off the line by Shaw as Shields breathed a sigh of relief.
Soon after that, it was Hindle’s turn to go close as he beat Baxter before blasting the ball goalwards, and his attempt was brilliantly kicked clear by Connell.
Shields broke from the resulting corner and created an opportunity of their own, with Holmes shooting not far over from 12 yards.
Another opportunity came and went as Briggs’ effort from the edge of the box was well saved by Cooper, but the Mariners kept the ball alive and were awarded a penalty when Briggs was adjudged to have been tripped in the area.
Richardson immediately signalled that he wanted to take it, but Cooper produced a brilliant save to his right and it appeared that it was not to be the Mariners’ day.
They struggled to recover from that blow, and the home side made the points safe as Hindle superbly beat Nicholson on the left before running into the box and placing a shot to perfection into the bottom corner.
Shields kept going and pulled a goal back seven minutes into added time when Sullivan showed great strength and persistence to beat his defender before forcing a shot under Cooper.
Despite the defeat, the Mariners remained top of EVO-STIK North, and they will hope to bounce back when they travel to Colne on Tuesday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw, Storey (Morse 59), Arca (c), Briggs, Nicholson, Cogdon, Finnigan (Richardson 59), Holmes (Sullivan 71). Subs not used: Norton, Smith.
Goals: Nicholson (62), Sullivan (90+7).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Bob Scott.