South Shields opened up a 12 point lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division on a record-breaking and pulsating day at Mariners Park.
The Mariners defeated second-placed FC United 5-3 in a thrilling encounter in front of a crowd of 3,276, which broke the ground’s league attendance record.
It was a fully-deserved victory for Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side, who went ahead in the 21st minute as Jason Gilchrist found the net against his former club.
Shields’ first half dominance was rewarded with further goals in the latter stages of the half from Josh Gillies and Gilchrist, and they went into the half-time break with a huge amount of confidence.
FC United responded well in the early stages of the second half and pulled a goal back through the prolific Tunde Owolabi, only for Nathan Lowe to swiftly restore the three-goal advantage with a stunning drive from distance.
The end to the game was more fractured as the Mariners were forced to reshuffle three times because of injuries, with Owolabi adding two further goals to complete his hat-trick and give FC United some hope.
Between those strikes, though, Bali Mumba netted on his home debut for Shields to seal their victory and again boost their hopes of clinching promotion.
Full report to follow.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Baxter, Adams (Thompson 73), Shaw (c) (Ross 59), Verstraaten, Turnbull, Gillies, Briggs, Gilchrist (Mason 68), Lowe, Mumba. Subs not used: Jenkins, Gonzales.
Goals: Gilchrist (21, 45), Gillies (42), Lowe (52), Mumba (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Bali Mumba drilled home the only goal of the game as South Shields claimed a vital victory against promotion rivals Nantwich Town to move nine points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
Mumba’s strike two minutes into the second half was a fine way for the Sunderland loanee to mark his first start for the Mariners, who moved 14 points ahead of Nantwich with their win.
It was a hard-fought encounter between the sides in Cheshire, with Shields overcoming three injury blows to seal a clean sheet and with it, a bit of revenge for their 4-1 defeat at home to the same opponents in February.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made five changes to the side which won 2-1 at Bamber Bridge three days earlier, and opted to switch to a new formation as they fielded five at the back.
The closest Nantwich came to scoring was a whipped free-kick by Sean Cooke in the third minute which flashed across the box but evaded a touch.
The Mariners responded well and after Jason Gilchrist headed wide from a Jon Shaw cross, they went closer still as Mumba cut inside from the left before firing a low effort which was well saved by Cameron Gregory in the Dabbers goal.
Myles Boney made two important saves in the first half for Shields, first palming a deflected strike from Cooke wide before later pushing a Joe Malkin shot past the post as the forward ran through on goal.
At the other end, Gilchrist drew a smart save from Gregory and Jordan Hunter almost opened the scoring with a powerful effort from the edge of the area which took a slight deflection.
Mumba broke the deadlock less than two minutes into the second half as he drove down the right of the box and fired a low shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
The teenager proved too hot to handle in the second half and was repeatedly fouled, but the hosts were unable to stop him.
He almost created a second goal as he got in behind down the left and delivered a cross onto the head of Gilchrist, whose header went over.
Nantwich attempted to create some pressure in the closing stages but were unable to test Boney again as Shields remained resolute and saw out a vital victory.
They face another titanic tussle on Saturday when they welcome second-placed FC United of Manchester to Mariners Park.
A big crowd is expected and supporters are advised to buy tickets in advance from www.southshieldsfc.co.uk, by calling 0191 454 7800 between 12pm and 5pm or visiting Mariners Park between the same times.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Gillies 81), Verstraaten, Morse (Baxter 20), Brown (Gonzales 62), Briggs, Ross, Gilchrist, Shaw (c), Mumba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Lowe.
Goal: Mumba (47).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Highly-rated Sunderland youngster Bali Mumba has joined South Shields on loan.
The 18-year-old – who made his first-team debut for the Black Cats in May 2018 – will spend the rest of the season at Mariners Park.
Mumba, from South Shields, could make his first appearance for his hometown club in Saturday’s league trip to Bamber Bridge.
South Shields joint manager Graham Fenton said: “We’re delighted to have someone of Bali’s calibre joining us for the final push in the league season.
“He is very highly-regarded at Sunderland having been regularly involved in the first-team squad over the last two years, and we’d like to thank all the members of staff at Sunderland who have enabled this to happen.
“Bali will give us undoubted real quality and athleticism, and I’m sure he will gain massively from the experience with us across the two-month period.
“We’re looking forward to getting him started.”
Mumba made his debut for Sunderland as a 16-year-old in May 2018, coming on as a substitute in the Black Cats’ victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He was handed the captain’s armband when he came on, becoming the club’s youngest-ever captain in the process.
He has now made 10 appearances for the Black Cats’ first-team, while he has also represented England at Under-16s, Under-17s, Under-18s and Under-19s levels.
Mumba will link up at Mariners Park with Sunderland team-mate Jordan Hunter, who is also with Shields for the rest of the season.