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 scored twice in a dramatic last three minutes to snatch an important 3-2 victory at Mossley in EVO-STIK North on Saturday.
The Mariners, who were playing just their second league game since September 23, looked headed for defeat as the hosts entered the final stages with a 2-1 lead.
Barrie Smith’s stunning early opener for Shields had been cancelled out by home captain Tom Dean, before goalkeeper Oliver Martin pulled off a superb penalty save to deny Julio Arca and Jack Tuohy put the hosts in front.
Shields piled on the pressure as the second half advanced and got their reward three minutes from time as a piece of magic from Arca brought them level.
Substitute Jamie Holmes then slid in the winner two minutes later to spark scenes of joy among the travelling faithful as the Mariners brought Mossley’s unbeaten home record to an end.
It was a win which moved Shields level on points with Bamber Bridge at the top of the EVO-STIK North Division table, with three games in hand.
Until the closing stages, it had been a frustrating afternoon for the Mariners at a blustery and sodden Seel Park.
They had enjoyed a fine opening, with a stunning 25-yard strike from Barrie Smith handing them the lead in the seventh minute. The midfielder pounced after a Craig Baxter cross was half-cleared.
The hosts were on level terms before the quarter-hour mark, though, with captain Tom Dean nodding into the corner of the net after a bout of head tennis in the Shields penalty area.
Both teams had chances in the remainder of the half without showing much cutting edge.
Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell did well to deny Adam Latham at his near post, while at the other end, Oliver Martin saved from Gavin Cogdon.
The Mariners had a golden chance to retake the lead 13 minutes before half-time when Dean brought Cogdon down in the area.
However, Martin produced a superb stop to his left to deny Julio Arca and keep the scores level.
Mossley turned the tables soon after.
A routine backpass to Connell took a bad bobble and the Shields goalkeeper missed his kick, allowing Jack Tuohy to pounce and turn the ball home.
Shields were better after the break and gradually began to pen their opponents back.
They were indebted to Connell for keeping the deficit at one, though, as he pulled off a stunning one-handed save when Latham’s effort deflected against Dillon Morse and wrong-footed him.
Michael Richardson fired a good chance wide, while Morse hit the bar and Cogdon was denied by a tremendous point-blank save as Shields turned up the pressure.
The conditions were becoming ever more treacherous, and it looked like the Mariners were running out of time heading into the closing stages.
They then pulled themselves level with four minutes left as Arca – who played like a man possessed in the second half – produced a bit of magic to beat his man in midfield before firing an unstoppable right-footed effort into the bottom corner.
The winner arrived soon after, with Louis Storey heading across goal for fellow substitute Jamie Holmes, who slid in from close range to spark wild celebrations as Shields’ excellent start to the season continued.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Callaghan 59), Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Richardson (Holmes 59), Smith (Storey 82), Cogdon, Briggs, Pattison. Subs not used: Norton, Nicholson.
Goals: Smith (7), Arca (87), Holmes (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The latest game of the club’s Bingo Lottery was won on Saturday – with Barrie Smith claiming the £816 prize.
The game ran for six weeks, before Mariners midfielder Barrie’s six numbers were matched.
Congratulations to him, and thanks to everyone for their continued involvement.
Now is the ideal chance to sign up for the next game, which will start with this coming Saturday’s National Lotto draw.
Participants select six numbers between one and 59, and can also enter with more than one set of numbers for £1 per week per line.
Each Saturday, any numbers which come out on the National Lotto draw are ticked off until the first participant(s) match all six of their selections, therefore winning the prize.
Entry tickets can be downloaded at the Bingo Lottery section of the club website, and can also be obtained by calling Bob Scott on 07920 554377 or Gary Crutwell on 07947 480054.