South Shields suffered an agonising defeat on penalties as their promotion hopes were dashed by Warrington Town at 1st Cloud Arena.

Darius Osei handed the Mariners a first half lead in the play-off semi-final but Jordan Buckley hit back for the visitors after the break.

Both sides had opportunities to win the tie in extra-time but after they could not be separated over 120 minutes, it went to spot-kicks.

Two saves from Daniel Atherton ensured Warrington prevailed to take their place in the final against Scarborough Athletic.

Full report to follow.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Wilding (Rose 74), Briggs, Hooper (Hodgson 90+1), McGowan (Jenkins 110), Osei. Subs not used: Tee, Kempster.

Goal: Osei (19).

Attendance: 2,014.

Image: Kev Wilson.

Whitby Town came from behind to inflict a 3-2 defeat on South Shields in the Mariners’ final home match of the regular league season.

The result – coupled with Buxton’s 1-0 victory over Matlock Town – means Shields are set to compete in the play-offs, the semi-final of which will be held next Tuesday.

They had looked set to keep pace with the Bucks heading into the last set of fixtures when goals from Darius Osei and JJ Hooper earned them a 2-1 lead at half-time.

The Mariners were unable to capitalise on opportunities to extend that advantage, though, and Whitby struck twice late on through Marcus Giles and Jacob Hazel to take all three points.

Shields were impressive in the early stages and went close twice within the first 10 minutes, with Blair Adams and Osei both denied by Seasiders goalkeeper Shane Bland.

Hooper also had a good chance when he got on the end of a Dillon Morse flick-on, but his hooked effort cleared the crossbar.

The deserved breakthrough arrived on 16 minutes as Robert Briggs hit the ball downfield and Osei pounced on a loose clearance before swivelling in the area and firing into the bottom corner.

Shields were well on top and almost doubled their lead when Hooper played in Adams down the left of the box and he squared it to Osei, who was thwarted by Bland from close range.

Whitby equalised just after the midway point in the first half thanks to a fine pass by Harry Green and an excellent run and finish from Hazel, with a deflection leaving Myles Boney with no chance to react to the low strike.

The Mariners’ response was emphatic and they were back in front before the half-hour after Jordan Hunter picked out Hooper with an excellent cross and his header found the top corner.

The away side were now an established threat in the contest, though, and Green combined with Hazel again to unlock another golden chance, only for the league’s top goalscorer to turn his shot wide.

After the break, the opportunities continued to come. The first of them was a header by Whitby captain Daniel Rowe which Briggs headed to safety, although the ball appeared to be drifting just wide.

Hooper was unfortunate not to double his tally when Will McGowan played him in down the right of the box and he rifled a shot narrowly wide of the opposite post, and Shields went close again as Osei was played in but fired at Bland and a further strike by Hunter found the side netting.

The Mariners were made to pay for those missed chances when substitute Giles nipped in behind and angled a low effort which kissed the post on its way into the Shields net with 13 minutes remaining.

There was enough time left for Shields to respond and they did just that.

Substitute Cedric Main dug out a cross which Hooper headed onto the roof of the net and a Hunter cross was headed wide by Main as the hosts generated some momentum.

Ultimately it was the visitors who clinched the decisive fifth goal, though, as Hazel worked the ball onto his left foot and hit a low shot which was taken past Boney by a deflection.

Main and Hooper were both denied by blocks in the final whistle of stoppage time but Whitby saw things out to take the points.

Shields’ final league fixture is at Grantham Town on Saturday and, barring an extremely unlikely set of results, they are now set to compete in the play-offs.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c) (Kempster 82), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose, Briggs, Hooper, McGowan (Main 75), Osei (Tee 75). Subs not used: Wilding, Hodgson.

Goals: Osei (16), Hooper (29).

Attendance: 2,669.

Image: Kev Wilson.

Darius Osei and Blair Adams both notched doubles as South Shields ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over Stalybridge Celtic in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

Osei’s first half brace was followed by two goals from Adams after the break, with the Mariners producing one of their most convincing displays of the campaign.

The result kept them two points behind leaders Buxton heading into the final three league fixtures.

Kevin Phillips named an unchanged team for this vital clash, with Sam Wilding retaining his place in midfield as he made his first start at 1st Cloud Arena.

Adams and Jordan Hunter were vital to the victory and they linked up as early as the second minute when Hunter’s deep cross from the right was headed wide by his fellow wing-back at the back post.

There was another good chance for the hosts before Stalybridge had time to catch their breath, with Jack Bodenham slipping in Sam Hodgson, whose drive was saved by the legs of visiting goalkeeper Grant Shenton.

Hodgson also headed over from a pinpoint Adams cross as Shields kept up the pressure, and the sense a goal was on its way became stronger when Osei strode into the box and rattled the outside of the post.

The deserved breakthrough arrived on 18 minutes with a fine piece of play as Robert Briggs released Hunter down the right and he raced to the byline before pulling the ball across the face of goal, where Osei was on hand to tuck it into an empty net.

Shields were unfortunate not to double their lead when Briggs presented Hodgson with an open goal and the striker converted, only to see the assistant referee’s flag deny him after a marginal offside.

They did not have to wait much longer for goal number two, with Briggs again proving to be the provider as he threaded a through ball to Osei and he rolled it under Shenton to double his tally for the afternoon.

Hodgson did not get on the scoresheet but he was a lively presence throughout his time on the pitch. His latest chance saw him hook a shot over after a flick-on from strike partner Osei.

The Mariners will have felt unfortunate not to go in at half-time with a more comfortable advantage. They had further opportunities in the closing stages of the first half and the closest they came was a curler from Briggs which dipped just past the post.

There were also some sights of goal at the other end, with Conor Falls firing wide from 20 yards, Charley Doyle heading not far wide from a Douglas Nyaupembe cross and Stephen Brogan having an effort saved by Myles Boney.

Shields controlled possession well after the break and had a golden opportunity to make it three in the 49th minute.

Hunter again found space on the right and another superb cross from the right-sider picked out Osei, who was unable to clinch his hat-trick as he headed wide.

A second assist of the afternoon was provided by Hunter soon after, with Adams the beneficiary.

Shields worked the ball from left to right and Hunter beat his defender before delivering another tremendous cross which Adams headed past Shenton to effectively seal the points.

There could have been a third assist for Hunter when he found Hodgson in the next Mariners attack, but he was denied by Shenton.

Osei and Hodgson were then withdrawn as the fresh legs of Cedric Main and JJ Hooper were introduced to the fray.

Main proved to have an instant impact. He broke away down the right, twisted and turned his way past Sam Wedgbury and squared the ball to Adams, who rifled it into the top corner to match Osei’s tally for the afternoon and cap an impressive afternoon for the Mariners.

With just three matches remaining, every moment is now crucial in this exciting title race and an Easter weekend double-header could go a long way towards deciding the destination of the championship.

Shields kick-off a brace of fixtures in three days with a trip to FC United of Manchester next Saturday before hosting Whitby Town in their final home league match of the campaign.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Tee 75), Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Wilding, Briggs, Hodgson (Hooper 72), McGowan, Osei (Main 72). Subs not used: Rose, Jenkins.

Goals: Osei (18, 28), Adams (61, 73).

Attendance: 2,257.

Image: Kev Wilson.