Goalkeeper Dale Connor made his long-awaited debut for South Shields in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Birtley Town at Mariners Park.

Connor was with the Mariners at the start of the season, but because of work commitments, was unable to stay with the club longer-term.

Over recent weeks, though, he has returned to the fold, and he made his first appearance for the club against Birtley, keeping a clean sheet.

In the video above, he discusses how pleased he was to get the nod, and his hopes for the future.

Connor also talks about his background in football, and why he is so confident in his own ability.

Two moments of quality were enough for South Shields as they saw off Birtley Town to make it nine consecutive league victories.

Shields were frustrated for long stretches of the game by relegation-threatened Birtley amid difficult, windy conditions at Mariners Park.

However, they finally broke through in the second half with two goals in four minutes as Robert Briggs and David Foley’s efforts made the points safe.

The win moved the Mariners to within four wins of promotion, and maintained their eight-point advantage at the top of Ebac Northern League Division Two.

In front of an Easter Saturday crowd of 917, Shields started as they aimed to go on as they got in behind on the right through Martyn Coleman within 20 seconds of kick-off, but just as he looked like he might score, the ball broke loose and the visitors scrambled it clear.

Foley also saw an early effort blocked from a Briggs free-kick, but Birtley were resilient and belied their league placing.

Shields always looked the more likely team to score, with Warren Byrne having two efforts kept out and Leepaul Scroggins sending a volley over, while a bigger chance came when Foley pulled the ball across the box to Coleman, but it went just behind him and he was unable to get a clean strike in.

It seemed just a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken, and Byrne came the closest to that when he got on the end of a ball through the middle, but after he hit a shot across goal, Birtley goalkeeper Dominic McMahon did brilliantly to save it with his foot.

Another close shave was when Foley got in behind on the inside-left of the box and then fired across goal, where Coleman and debutant Kris Hughes were just unable to stretch enough to slide it in.

A shot from Byrne took a deflection and went just past the post, while the same man came close to scoring a second wonder goal in a week when his volley from the edge of the box went inches wide.

The sides therefore went in at half-time level, but the Mariners almost went ahead within a minute of the restart as top scorer Byrne headed not far off target.

The same man was involved again soon after as he hit a shot over, while at the other end, Birtley went close to taking a shock lead when the dangerous Andrew Townsend swung in a free-kick which took a wicked bounce off the turf and was well tipped over by debutant Dale Connor in the Shields goal.

The Mariners’ frustration was growing, with Coleman volleying their latest opportunity over at the near post before Michael Turner was introduced from the bench in place of Hughes.

Finally, the breakthrough arrived in the 64th minute. Coleman – who had done some tireless work on the flanks – again spread out to the right to receive the ball, and he delivered an inch-perfect cross which Briggs did brilliantly to get on the end of as he headed low into the ground and then the net.

The feeling around Mariners Park was one of relief, and Shields looked set to motor on further when, just four minutes later, Briggs threaded an excellent ball through for Foley, who took a touch and then coolly rolled it into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

However, that was to be the last goal of the day as Birtley continued to show good doggedness and refused to be on the wrong end of a heavy scoreline.

John Grey drilled an effort wide for the hosts and there was also a chance for Coleman, whose shot from the edge of the box took a deflection and was saved by McMahon.

Other than that, Shields were unable to pick a way through the visitors’ back-line as they were forced to settle for 2-0.

Despite some frustration with the performance amid difficult conditions, the Mariners did enough to get the job done as they moved onto 83 points ahead of Wednesday’s fixture at Heaton Stannington.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Connor, Smith, Grey, Hassan (Riding 69), Carson, Briggs, Hughes (Turner 62), Scroggins (c), Byrne (Ramsey 74), Coleman, Foley. Subs not used: Richardson, Hall.

Goals: Briggs (64), Foley (68).

Attendance: 917.

WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.

South Shields face their final Saturday home game of the season this weekend when Birtley Town visit Mariners Park (3pm kick-off).

Shields have won their last eight games in the league, a run of form which has moved them within five victories of securing promotion.

Birtley have major concerns of their own, though, as the season reaches its climax.

They are one place outside of the relegation zone, with only goal difference currently keeping their heads above water.

Birtley have been improved recently, though, and lost out narrowly to in-form Northallerton last time out, while a recent victory over Esh Winning was vital in their survival bid.

Shields will go into the match full of confidence, though, and determined to move a step closer to Ebac Northern League Division One.

With it being Easter Saturday, an international break and the Mariners’ final Saturday home match this season, it is hoped that there will be another bumper crowd at Mariners Park.

ADMISSION

The club would truly appreciate yet another strong support at Mariners Park as the players aim to edge closer to the finish line in the battle for promotion. Admission prices are £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s. Admission is paid for at the turnstiles on the day of the game.

For those who have not yet been to Mariners Park, here are some directions to the ground.

LAST MEETING

November 4, 2015 – Ebac Northern League Division Two, Birtley Sports Complex

Birtley Town 1 (Day 21) South Shields 3 (Bulford 3, Foley 12, Ramsey 15). Attendance: 320.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Young, Smith, Turner, Hall, Galpin, Briggs, Foley, Scroggins (c), Ramsey (Arca 73), Bulford (Wightman 65), Phillips (Sakr 79). Subs not used: Pocklington, Byrne.

FORM GUIDE

Last six games (in all competitions)

Birtley Town: LLDWLL (Overall league position: 20th, 20 points from 33 games)

South Shields: WWLWWD (Overall league position: 1st, 80 points from 32 games)

THOUGHTS AHEAD OF THE GAME

Jon King, South Shields manager: “We’re just looking at the next game, and won’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re not going to look three, four or five games down the line. All that we’ve been focussing on since the Crook game has been getting right for Birtley. We did a lot of work in training on our shooting. We’re looking forward to Saturday’s game, and hopefully we’ll be able to tick that one off before looking ahead to the next one.

“It’s a game we’re looking forward to. The lads love playing at Mariners Park, because the fans get right behind them. We’re looking forward to the game. It’s not about Birtley – it’s about us. If we’re right mentally, and can improve our finishing, I’m sure we should win the game.”

PROGRAMME

Below is the front cover of the programme for the game, featuring Ben Riding. Included within it is an interview with Ben, a feature with the Baku Mariners and a tribute to Don Robson, as well as much more. Programmes can be bought from beside the turnstiles on matchday.

The Mariner 35 Birtley COVER