South Shields returned to winning ways as a polished away performance steered them to a 2-0 victory at Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The game was lit up by a stunning 45-yard strike from Robert Briggs in the first half, a goal which put the Mariners 2-0 ahead after David Foley had opened the scoring.
Shields saw the match out effectively in the second half to end a run of three without a win and reignite their hopes of winning promotion from the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
They looked bright and confident from the first whistle, enjoying a good deal of possession before taking the lead in the 11th minute.
A Blair Adams effort from outside the box was deflected into the path of Lee Mason on the left of the area and he squared it for Foley to tap home from close range.
Brig almost provided an immediate response when striker Matthew Dudley let fly with a free-kick from distance, but Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell got two strong hands on the ball to push it over.
Then came Briggs’ moment of inspiration.
Adams pressured home goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby into a hurried clearance which he miscued to the feet of the midfielder, who was inside the centre circle.
Briggs hit a tremendous half-volley first time which left the despairing Rigby with no chance as it arrowed into the bottom corner to double the Mariners’ advantage.
That gave the visitors a good cushion but they were mindful of the fact they had squandered a two-goal lead against the same opponents a fortnight earlier and could ill afford a repeat.
They set about making the points safe in the remainder of the first half and almost did so when Mason was played in on the left of the box before firing narrowly wide.
Bamber Bridge could have pulled one back before half-time when a superb cross from Callum Spooner was flicked on to Chris Marlow, who prodded the ball wide.
Shields went straight down the other end and, after some terrific work near the halfway line from the impressive and industrious Luke Daly, Foley sprinted through before having a shot tipped wide.
Brig started the second half well but were unable to test Connell, and the closest they came was when a cross from the right was bundled past his own post by Dillon Morse.
Connor Bell was introduced just after the hour mark for his Shields debut and he was lively throughout.
He almost opened his account just five minutes after coming on when Daly picked him out with a brilliant cross, but the striker headed wide.
Daly was at the heart of much of the Mariners’ best attacking play, and went close to getting on the scoresheet towards the end as he produced a fine turn before forcing a fingertip save from Rigby.
Rigby also denied Briggs as the game ticked into stoppage time as the Shields midfielder let fly with another half volley which would have added to his collection of fine goals.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side saw stoppage time out to earn an important three points on a day which saw table-topping Farsley Celtic lose and second-placed Warrington Town draw.
They take a short break from league action on Tuesday when they travel to Dunston UTS in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Lowe (Mouanda 80), Briggs, Mason (Bell 63), Daly, Foley (Cogdon 74). Subs not used: Lough, Harmison.
Goals: Foley (11), Briggs (17).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields travel to Bamber Bridge on Saturday as they aim for a return to winning ways in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
The Mariners are five points off the top after a run of three games without a victory, and leaders Farsley Celtic have a game in hand.
Despite the recent blip, joint manager Lee Picton remains confident Shields have what it takes to clinch promotion.
He was pleased with their performance in last Saturday’s match against second-placed Warrington Town – despite a 2-1 defeat – and is adamant that if that display is repeated consistently, they will win a considerable amount more than they lose.
Picton said: “It doesn’t happen very often after a defeat, but I was a happy manager last week and proud of the players in terms of the character and quality they showed.
“We ticked lots of boxes in the game and it was just one of those days when we didn’t get what we deserved.
“We’re not going to give up.
“We’ve got 12 games to go and our target is to finish with as many points as we possibly can, and we’ll see where the cards fall come the end of the season.
“There will be no giving up from our end.
“There’s still a long way to go, and if we consistently show the qualities we showed last Saturday we still have a great chance of getting out of this league this season.”
Shields and Bamber Bridge last met just a fortnight ago, with Brig battling back from 3-1 down to earn a share of the spoils at Mariners Park.
Picton is confident that should Shields replicate the sort of performance they delivered against Warrington, they can get back to winning ways.
He added: “Regardless of who we’re against, it’s an opportunity for us to again show the qualities we showed last Saturday.
“We’re looking for another really strong performance in terms of personality and hopefully quality.
“If we can do that, I’m massively confident that we can go there and get the right result.”
Shields remain without long-term injured trio Carl Finnigan, Anthony Callaghan and Barrie Smith heading into the trip to 15th-placed Brig.
Josh Gillies is a doubt while Gary Brown has been ruled out with a calf injury.
Dillon Morse and Lee Mason are expected to shrug off knocks to be available, while new signing Connor Bell is eligible to make his debut.
Kick-off at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium – which has a post code of PR5 6UX – is at 3pm.
South Shields’ 100% record at home in the league was brought to a dramatic end as Bamber Bridge came from 3-1 down to snatch a point on Saturday.
The Mariners were not at their best in blustery conditions but looked set to seal maximum points when goals from Nathan Lowe, Jon Shaw and Robert Briggs put them 3-1 ahead.
They held that two-goal lead heading into the final 10 minutes, but two goals in three minutes from gutsy Brig earned them a share of the spoils.
The result saw Shields stay second in the Evo-Stik Premier Division on a day which for long spells they looked likely to clamber back to the top.
They enjoyed the ideal start, taking the lead after less than two minutes when Briggs dinked a ball forward which was headed as far as the feet of Lowe, who drilled a left-foot effort into the bottom corner.
Shields created most of the goalscoring opportunities in the first half and almost doubled their lead in the 12th minute when Craig Baxter delivered a teasing ball from the right which was met by the head of Briggs, but visiting goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby brilliantly kicked away his effort.
Although they enjoyed much of the possession and territory, it was not until later in the half that the Mariners really began to assert their dominance.
Four minutes before half-time, a free-kick from deep on the left by Josh Gillies just evaded a touch and bounced narrowly past the woodwork.
Baxter was next to go close as he fired not far wide from the edge of the box, while Briggs was kept off the scoresheet by a fine block and then save as the pressure started to mount.
It finally paid off on the 45 minute mark when a Gillies corner from the left was headed against the bar by Briggs before the loose ball fell to Shaw, who rifled it into the roof of the net to double the home side’s advantage.
Shields continued to have much of the play at the start of the second half, with Gillies narrowly failing to convert a cross from Blair Adams and a further tremendous ball from Adams being headed over by Briggs.
Brig then burst into life, though, and Mariners goalkeeper Liam Connell had to be alert to push a header by Alistair Waddecar wide after a superb ball in from Matthew Dudley.
The visitors were offered a route back into the game just after the hour mark when Lowe was penalised for a foul on Waddecar, and the same player stepped up to beat Connell from the penalty spot and half the deficit.
Luke Daly was introduced from the bench for his Shields debut after that blow, and he impressed with a tidy and industrious performance.
It looked near-certain that he would end up on the winning side when, after Gillies was fouled in the area, Briggs rattled in a penalty to restore the Mariners’ two-goal advantage.
The points were almost made safe just a minute later as David Foley was played in on the inside-left of the box, but a tremendous save from Rigby denied him and Brig managed to hack the ball clear.
It proved to be an important stop by Rigby as his side battled back to earn a point in the final 10 minutes.
They pulled one goal back after a well-worked move down the right which resulted in Chris Marlow slotting in from close range.
Less than three minutes later, they were level as a corner from the right dropped onto the head of Matt Lawlor and he looped the ball into the bottom corner to silence the home support.
It almost turned into a real nightmare for the Mariners two minutes from the end when a Bamber Bridge counter-attack led to Marlow being played in on goal, but he dragged his effort wide as the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
One final piece of drama arrived in stoppage time as Shields substitute Gavin Cogdon went down under a challenge in the area, but the referee waved away his penalty appeal and the teams had to settle for a draw.
The Mariners will look to bounce back to winning ways on Tuesday when they travel to Grantham Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Brown, Turnbull, Mouanda (Daly 66), Lowe (Harmison 90+1), Foley (Cogdon 76), Briggs, Gillies. Subs not used: Morse, Lough.
Goals: Lowe (2), Shaw (45), Briggs (pen 73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.