By Daniel Prince
A hat-trick of headers from defender Ben Riding helped South Shields to an entertaining 4-3 win over Chester-le-Street at Peterlee.
Shields had to come from 1-0 and 2-1 down, but found themselves 4-2 in front at the break after a thrilling first half.
A late Chester-le-Street goal set up a nervy ending for the Mariners, but they saw the game out to seal a second successive win.
Defender Colin White was forced to go in goal for Shields, with regular goalkeeper Jak Wells injured and stand-in Simon Parkin unavailable.
And White found himself picking the ball out of the net within four minutes.
A ball over the top evaded the Shields defence, and visiting striker Damien Stevens poked it past the onrushing White and into the bottom corner.
White saved an effort from the same player four minutes later, while Shaun Smith volleyed one over at the other end in a lively opening.
The Mariners always looked a threat in the air, and Riding got his first to equalise on 18 minutes.
Paul Greenwell’s lofted free-kick from just inside his own half went straight onto the head of the defender, who nodded it into the bottom corner.
Chester-le-Street responded well, though, and thought they should have had a penalty when the ball appeared to strike the arm of Elliot Cutts.
However, on 23 minutes, they retook the lead, with Stevens again getting on the end of a through ball before slotting past White.
The Shields defence had been struggling to cope with the lively Stevens, who was by far Chester-le-Street’s biggest threat.
On the half-hour mark, the home side thought they had equalised again, but Adam Burnicle’s effort was ruled out for offside.
A ball from White had been flicked on by Stephen Ramsey to Burnicle, who turned it past the goalkeeper, only for the assistant referee’s flag to deny him.
Shields continued to threaten from crosses, though, and Shaun Smith’s off-balance header from Chris Feasey’s ball on the left went wide.
Cutts saw another effort from just outside the box deflected wide on 38 minutes, but from the resulting corner, he was not to be denied.
A short-corner routine by Feasey and Richardson led to the latter lifting a cross in from the right, and Cutts headed it into the corner to give Shields a deserved leveller.
They pushed for more before half-time, and Riding was not too far away from scoring his second when he headed Feasey’s floated corner wide.
On 42 minutes, though, he put Shields ahead for the first time.
Feasey’s corner from the left hung in the air, and Riding headed it across goal at the back post, with the effort just evading the Chester-le-Street defenders and finding its way into the bottom corner.
Richardson headed another cross wide before Riding completed his unlikely hat-trick two minutes into stoppage time.
He headed in at the back post from another Feasey corner, meaning Shields went in at half-time 4-2 ahead after four headed goals.
It continued Riding’s good form in front of goal, as he had also scored the headed winner at Whickham nine days earlier.
The second half was a quieter affair, although David Surrey’s sweet strike for the visitors eight minutes after the restart went just wide.
White did well to hold a long-range volley from Stevens, before Shields had two glorious chances to score a fifth to seal the win.
First, Burnicle saw a flicked effort saved on 73 minutes, before Feasey’s low effort on the left of the box a minute later was well saved by the legs of visiting goalkeeper Nathan Armin.
Chester-le-Street almost got a lifeline 13 minutes from the end when John Honour took the ball around White and found Stevens, but Mariners substitute David Halliday somehow got back to clear the ball off the line.
The visitors did make it a nervy ending for Shields when they struck seven minutes from the end, with a free-kick from the left flicked into the opposite corner by Andrew Grant Soulsby.
However, they were unable to put the home defence under too much more pressure, and it was Shields who came closest to scoring again, with Cutts’s effort from distance going just wide.
The Mariners saw the game out to take the 4-3 victory, and the three points left them 16th in Northern League Division Two, three points behind Willington.
Shields have three games left, and are next in action on Tuesday, when they host Washington at Peterlee.
SOUTH SHIELDS: White, Greenwell (Halliday 54), Riding, Locke, Davidson (B Smith 54), Cutts, S Smith, Richardson (Sweeney 75), Ramsey (c), Burnicle, Feasey. Subs not used: Berhan.
Goals: Riding (18, 42, 45+2), Cutts (38).
By Daniel Prince
Jon King feels Barrie Smith’s return to the fold has given everyone at South Shields a major boost heading into the final four games of the season.
Smith, who captains the side, missed over two months of action after undergoing groin surgery at the start of February.
He made his comeback as a late substitute in last Thursday’s 1-0 win at Whickham, and is expected to be given another run-out in tomorrow’s match against Chester-le-Street at Peterlee (3pm kickoff).
King is delighted to have the midfielder back, with Shields having won just two of their 13 games during his injury lay-off.
The manager said: “Barrie came on near the end against Whickham and it was just a case of him getting some minutes.
“He has been out for such a long time, so it’s best to ease him back, which we’ll do again tomorrow.
“When he ran onto the pitch last Thursday, it was a good boost for everybody, including the fans, who gave him a good cheer.
“Barrie is our captain, and is infectious.
“He’s a winner, and we’ve certainly missed him in the middle of the park.”
The Mariners still have four games left to play after Tuesday’s clash with Ryton & Crawcrook Albion was postponed due to thick fog at Peterlee.
They are in a more positive frame of mind heading into their final fixtures, though, with the win at eighth-placed Whickham giving Shields something to build on.
The performance of defender Paul Greenwell – who has spent much of his time at the club on the bench – at Whickham was another plus for King, who played him in a back three with Chris Locke and Ben Riding.
King added: “Paul hasn’t played a lot, but did very well at Whickham.
“He maybe needs to lose a bit of weight, and a good pre-season would help him long-term.
“I was also impressed with Shaun Smith and Adam Burnicle on the flanks, who were fantastic going up and down.”
By Daniel Prince
South Shields play the first of four games in a week tomorrow (Saturday) as their season nears an end.
Chester-le-Street are the visitors to Eden Lane for a mid-table clash, with the Mariners sitting 16th and their opponents 11th in Northern League Division Two.
Shields go into the game on the back of yet another postponement, with Tuesday’s match against Ryton & Crawcrook Albion falling foul of the weather.
Heavy fog in Peterlee led to the officials calling the game off, meaning the Mariners still have four more games to get through before the end of the season.
They are in good spirits after their last performance, though, which was an impressive 1-0 win at Whickham last Thursday.
Manager Jon King wants his side to produce a similar performance tomorrow, and avoid repeating the mistakes they made in their 2-2 draw at Chester-le-Street in November.
He said: “Chester-le-Street are a tough side, but we should have beaten them down there.
“We gave stupid goals away, and didn’t take our numerous chances.
“That has been pretty much the case all season.
“At Whickham, we defended well and didn’t give them too many opportunities.
“We were a threat going forward, and we need to be similar tomorrow at both ends of the pitch.”
The match at Peterlee’s Eden Lane kicks off at 3pm.
South Shields. HOME.
P17. W5. D7. L5. F25. A32. Total GD -24. Pts 44. League table position: 16th.
Form. Last six games six points, form table placing 15th.
P20. W5. D6. L9. G31. A40. Total GD -5. Pts 58. League table position: 11th.
Form. Last six games three points, form table placing 20th.
South Shields are next in action on Tuesday, April 29, when they host Washington at Peterlee.