South Shields maintained their excellent form as they came from behind to beat Whitby Town 5-2 on an entertaining afternoon at Mariners Park.
Shields fell behind early on but hit back almost immediately thanks to a superb strike from David Foley.
They then hit the front after visiting defender Jassem Sukar was sent off for a last-man challenge and Robert Briggs converted the resulting penalty.
Whitby battled well with 10 men and, after Foley had doubled his account for the afternoon, they got back into it thanks to a goal by substitute Matty Tymon.
The Mariners ultimately proved to have too much for the Yorkshiremen, and late goals from Dillon Morse and Blair Adams ensured they stayed top of the league.
They could not have got off to a much worse start, though.
Whitby pressed the hosts in the early exchanges and were rewarded when striker Ashley Coffey stole the ball high up the pitch and rattled in a 20 yard effort via the post.
There were just three minutes on the clock and the boisterous away support must have believed their team had a chance of halting Shields’ 19-match winning run at home in the league.
However, the response from Shields was instant as they began to dominate possession and carve the visiting backline open.
They were almost level within a minute of falling behind as Craig Baxter advanced through the middle and forced former Mariners goalkeeper Jack Norton into a smart low save. Norton was to be in the thick of the action throughout the 90 minutes.
Shields threatened an equaliser on a number of occasions as they marched into decent attacking positions before they did draw level in the 10th minute.
Lee Mason played a tremendous ball out to Foley on the left channel and he went on the outside of his marker before rifling a left-foot effort into the roof of the net.
Josh Gillies almost put Shields ahead when Gary Brown slipped the ball through to him on the inside-right of the box, but a superb block denied him.
Whitby, despite being second-best, did possess a threat and fired Shields a double warning when a Coffey shot was deflected wide before Callum Patton produced some impressive footwork before seeing his effort deflected over.
The game then swung decisively in the home side’s favour when a superb ball from near the halfway line on the left by Gillies found Foley and he was pushed over by Sukar in the area. The Whitby left-back was given his marching orders and Shields had a golden opportunity to hit the front.
Briggs did not pass it up as he found the corner of the net, sending Norton the wrong way from the spot.
Norton kept the deficit at one as he beat away a low drive by Gillies before Shields were forced into a reshuffle when captain Jon Shaw was withdrawn with a groin injury.
Phil Turnbull replaced him and slotted into midfield, with Baxter shifted to right-back and Brown to the centre of defence.
The Mariners carried their one-goal lead into half-time and came out of the blocks sharply in the second half as they aimed to put the game to bed.
Mason dragged an effort wide from the edge of the box before Shields did go 3-1 ahead after a flowing move.
Turnbull split the Whitby defence open as he played in Adams on the left of the box and his teasing low delivery was rolled home by Foley from close range.
Norton did well to keep the visitors in it, saving from Adams, Briggs and Gillies before making an even more impressive stop, keeping out a Gillies shot from point-blank range.
Shields were peppering the Whitby goal but Norton refused to go down without a fight as he made further saves from Foley, Gillies and substitute Gavin Cogdon.
Chris Hardy’s side then responded, though, and Liam Connell had to be alert to tip a piledriver from Dale Hopson over the bar.
He was beaten from the resulting Hopson corner as substitute Tymon met it at the near post and sent the ball into the bottom corner.
Suddenly, it was game on again and Whitby perhaps should have levelled when another Hopson corner found Tymon in the six-yard area, but he fired over.
Shields gradually regained their dominance, but continued to be frustrated by Norton.
He closed down the angle well to keep out one Baxter shot, made a tremendous close-range save from Nathan Lowe and palmed a Cogdon effort wide just as the Shields striker appeared certain to make the points safe.
Eventually, the win was sealed for Shields when a Cogdon header came back off the bar and Briggs diverted the ball across the area to Morse, who hooked it past Norton for his eighth goal of the season.
There was to be a cruel final blow for Norton as Foley played in Adams on the inside-left of the box with a minute remaining and his shot squirmed under the body of the goalkeeper as the Mariners added a fifth.
Shields’ victory means they have now won their last 20 home matches in the league, a run which stretches back to last February.
They are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Mickleover Sports in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Brown (Lough 76), Adams, Shaw (c) (Turnbull 42), Morse, Briggs, Baxter, Lowe, Mason (Cogdon 66), Gillies, Foley. Subs not used: Mouanda, Harmison.
Goals: Foley (10, 51), Briggs (pen 25), Morse (87), Adams (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields enjoyed another tremendous day as they set up a mouth-watering top of the table clash with Farsley Celtic by cruising to a 3-0 win at Basford United.
Shields moved level on points with Farsley at the top as they made it 10 league victories from their last 12 games with goals from David Foley, Dillon Morse and Gavin Cogdon.
The result saw the Mariners leapfrog Nantwich Town and Warrington Town and take a joint lead at the top with Farsley, who they have an identical goal difference to.
Shields went into the match expecting a response from Basford, who suffered a shock 8-3 home defeat against Hyde United in their previous game.
The Nottingham-based club had won 10 of their 12 home games before that thrashing and are the league’s top scorers, so the Mariners were well aware of the threat they posed.
A workmanlike display ensured Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side were able to negotiate the challenge with relative comfort, despite a resilient performance from Basford.
Picton and Fenton demanded a fast start from Shields and the players responded to that well, opening the scoring after just 70 seconds.
Basford goalkeeper Saul Deeney’s pass was intercepted by Craig Baxter on the right of the box and he squared the ball for Foley, who slotted into the bottom corner to send the Mariners on their way.
The home side’s biggest threat appeared to be from crosses and set-pieces, but they were unable to seriously test Liam Connell in the Shields goal.
It was the Mariners who were in control and after a good period of possession, they extended their lead before the half-hour mark.
A free-kick from deep on the left by Josh Gillies was miscued by defender Stef Galinski and Deeney parried the ball to the feet of Morse, who tapped home for his sixth goal of the season.
Gary Brown turned in another impressive performance at right-back and he looked like making it three when he took advantage of some space on the flank to drive into the box before his shot flashed wide.
Nathan Lowe also saw an effort fly past the post on the stroke of half-time as Shields took what felt like a comfortable advantage into the interval.
One area of concern at the break for the Mariners would have been the number of free-kicks given away in dangerous areas, but they defended the set-pieces stoically and protected Connell’s goal well.
Basford were mainly restricted to half chances before and after half-time, with Shields enjoying their best spell just before the hour mark as they looked to make the points safe.
Foley went close to adding his second of the afternoon when he got on the end of a through ball by Lowe before drilling wide, while a similar move saw Lowe find the in-form Lee Mason, who thrashed an effort which was deflected over.
Morse thought he had made it three when he found the net after Deeney spilled a corner, but his celebrations were cut short when the referee blew for a foul.
Blair Adams was the next to go close as he got in behind before being impressively denied by Deeney, who also saved from Baxter as Shields cranked up the pressure.
Basford’s only spell in the ascendancy came in the final 10 minutes but they came up against a defence determined not to be breached.
Brown saved two goals – one with a superb tackle, the other with a brave block – while Morse was also on hand to make a crucial block.
As the game ticked towards its conclusion Shields substitute Cogdon stretched a tired defence as he raced onto a ball over the top two minutes into stoppage time before firing low into the net to complete a fine afternoon’s work for the Mariners.
Now it’s all eyes on the huge clash with Farsley Celtic next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Brown, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Baxter, Lowe, Mason (Cogdon 69), Gillies (Briggs 77), Foley (Harmison 85). Subs not used: Lough, Mouanda.
Goals: Foley (2), Morse (28), Cogdon (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields avoided a nightmare before Christmas as David Foley struck a stoppage time equaliser at Lancaster City on Saturday.
The Mariners were staring at defeat when they fell behind in the 87th minute at Giant Axe.
But there was still to be a twist in the tail as Foley rifled home a leveller to move Shields into the Evo-Stik Premier Division’s play-off places.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton were forced to make one change from the side which defeated Stalybridge Celtic 3-2 a week earlier, with Josh Gillies coming in for Lee Mason, who remained at home after his partner gave birth.
The early stages were difficult for the Mariners and they almost went behind in the third minute when a low cross from the right dropped to the feet of Lancaster striker Thomas Kilifin, whose effort hit the inside of the post before bouncing to safety.
Having survived that scare, Shields gradually gained a foothold in the game and had a good opportunity to open the scoring themselves after a punch by home goalkeeper Jack Simms dropped to the feet of Nathan Lowe, but he skewed wide from 25 yards.
Neither side was able to play flowing football on what was a difficult surface, but there were chances for both teams before the break.
A Robert Wilson corner for the home side was cleared as far as Glenn Steel on the edge of the box, and he arrowed a volley not far wide.
Shields built up some pressure late in the half, with Carl Finnigan having an effort deflected over and Dillon Morse seeing a header saved in a flurry of action.
The best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes came in the first minute of stoppage time as Josh Gillies played Finnigan in on goal, but Simms was out quickly to close down the angle and beat away his shot.
Robert Briggs had the first sight of goal in the second half when he was played in on the inside-right of the box, but he drilled narrowly wide.
Shields looked the more likely team to break the deadlock and went close again when Nathan Lowe was played into a decent position but was denied his first goal for the club by an excellent low stop from Simms.
Lowe had several attempts from distance and almost caught Simms out with one of them from 35 yards, but the goalkeeper scrambled across to push the ball behind for a corner, from which Lowe sent a further effort wide.
The Mariners’ frustration grew as the clock continued to tick towards a second consecutive scoreless draw away from home.
That frustration turned to disappointment three minutes from the end when a free-kick from the left by Lancaster substitute Charlie Russell was flicked on before being forced in by the head of Ben Hudson from close range.
It was a bitter blow for Shields but there was still time for them to offer a response, with five minutes of stoppage time providing a lifeline.
In the second of those, they grabbed the vital equaliser as an effort from substitute Ben Harmison was deflected into the path of Foley and he smashed the ball in first-time to seemingly salvage a point.
However, they were almost dealt the ultimate blow moments later when substitute Luke Jordan got in behind on the right of the box and sent an effort across goal which Connell forced to the feet of Ryan Walker, who somehow hit the bar from close range with the goal gaping.
It was a let-off for Shields, who settled for a point which moved them above Gainsborough Trinity to fifth.
The Mariners are back in action on Boxing Day when they travel to Scarborough Athletic.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams (Lough 76), Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Cogdon (Harmison 58), Briggs, Gillies (Foley 68), Finnigan, Lowe. Subs not used: Brown, Mouanda.
Goal: Foley (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.