South Shields climbed to the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League with an impressive 3-1 win over Matlock Town in front of the league’s biggest crowd of the season to date.

JJ Hooper and Sam Hodgson netted inside the first 24 minutes at 1st Cloud Arena to hand the Mariners a two-goal advantage which was quickly halved by a Ioan Evans header.

The majority of the 2,639 supporters in attendance were sent home happy after Jack Bodenham nodded in a deserved third for the hosts just after the hour mark to seal the three points.

The result moved Shields above Matlock and leaders Buxton to claim top spot for the first time since early October.

The Mariners opted for a change in formation as they looked to respond to a 1-0 defeat at Mickleover in their previous outing, with Jon Shaw reintroduced to the line-up as part of a back three while Jordan Hunter and Blair Adams operated as wing-backs, and Hooper partnered Hodgson in attack.

The intent of the home side was evident from kick-off and the switches almost paid an immediate dividend when Adams’ cross from the left was collected by fellow wing-back Hunter and laid off to Hodgson, who swept a shot just wide from 12 yards.

Hunter was at the heart of many of Shields’ forays forward and another burst from the right-back led to him finding Nathan Lowe, whose strike from 25 yards dipped but cleared the crossbar.

The breakthrough arrived on 11 minutes as the Mariners were rewarded for their bright start.

Hodgson nodded a clipped pass by Dillon Morse into the path of his strike partner Hooper, whose controlled half-volley took a slight deflection off Reece Kendall to beat visiting goalkeeper Joe Young.

Shields were well on top and almost had a spectacular second when Hunter took up a central position and whistled an effort just past the post from 25 yards with his less-favoured left foot.

Just after the midway point in the first half, the home team did double their lead after a fine team move.

It culminated when Lowe and Robert Briggs combined to release Hodgson down the inside-left of the box and he did the rest, lifting a superb finish past Young to become the club’s joint top goalscorer for the season with eight.

Matlock came into the match knowing they would go top themselves with a win, and they indicated they were not ready to give up that opportunity by pulling a goal back within two minutes of the restart.

Alex Byrne curled in a cross from the left and Ioan Evans broke forward to head it home and give the Gladiators a route back into the game.

They were almost level in their next attack, but Byrne could only hit the post with a close-range header as Shields breathed a sigh of relief.

The Mariners responded well and could have had a penalty when Hooper was challenged in the area, but the appeals were waved away and the sides remained separated by a goal heading into the interval.

The hosts again asserted themselves well after the break and had a number of attempts to extend their advantage.

Lowe saw a low shot from distance beaten away by Young and Hodgson volleyed over from a Hunter cross before going closer still when his diving header was brilliantly saved.

Boney had earlier scrambled to his left to prevent an own goal but Shields were on top, and grabbed a crucial third goal in the 62nd minute.

Lowe curled in a superb corner from the left and Bodenham met it on the run before directing a brilliant header into the top corner, to the delight of the huge home support.

The Mariners were rarely troubled after that and managed the game well to see out a crucial victory and take their place at the top of the table.

They will hope to build on the positive performance and result when they host Nantwich Town on Saturday.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Lowe (Jenkins 77), Rose, Hodgson (Osei 66), Briggs, Hooper (Kempster 90+2). Subs not used: McGowan, Tee.

Goals: Hooper (9), Hodgson (24), Bodenham (62).

Attendance: 2,639.

Image: Kev Wilson.

South Shields were forced to settle for a point as Buxton twice battled back from a goal behind in a match played in treacherous conditions at Silverlands.

Robert Briggs handed the Mariners an ideal start by prodding his side in front within the first two minutes and although third-placed Buxton equalised, Shields took a lead into half-time thanks to a superb volley from Jack Bodenham.

Kevin Phillips’ side were left frustrated when Jamie Ward’s dink earned the Bucks a share of the spoils, but the result kept Shields four points ahead of their opponents in the Pitching In Northern Premier League, and closed the gap on leaders Matlock Town to two points.

With Cedric Main missing out through injury, Phillips brought Darius Osei into the starting line-up and there were two more changes, with the fit-again Myles Boney and Jordan Hunter re-introduced to the team.

A strong start was desired and that was just what Shields delivered.

With less than two minutes on the clock, Blair Adams advanced down the left and teased in a superb low cross which bounced in the area and was forced over the line by Briggs, whose initial prodded effort had been blocked.

Osei also enjoyed a bright opening to the game and he went close to making it two, using his strength and pace to get in behind before his low strike from a tight angle was saved by the legs of goalkeeper Theo Richardson.

The Mariners were pressing persistently and they forced an error from their hosts on 11 minutes when the ball broke to Nathan Lowe, who drove through the centre before powering a low shot just past the post from 20 yards.

Against the run of play, though, Buxton equalised on the quarter-hour mark.

After Boney had brilliantly tipped a 20-yard attempt by Mackenzie Heaney wide, the resulting corner by Ward caught the wind and struck the crossbar before striking Jason Gilchrist and heading towards goal. Boney clawed it away but the officials controversially ruled the ball had crossed the line and the home side celebrated an equaliser, with Gilchrist registering a goal against his former club.

In swirling wind, driving rain and cold conditions which seriously challenged both teams, Shields responded well and were back in front on 26 minutes.

Lowe curled in a superb corner from the right and Bodenham met it with a terrific volley on the turn which arrowed into the top corner as he netted his second goal for the club. (CHECK)

The Mariners held their lead relatively comfortably into half-time, although Chris Dawson did curl an effort not far wide from distance for the hosts four minutes before the break.

There were few clear-cut chances in the second half, although Shields did have the better of the play in the early exchanges of it.

Briggs sent a half-volley narrowly wide from 20 yards, Osei had a low shot tipped wide and a Lowe free-kick from long range was impressively saved by Richardson.

But the fourth and final goal went the way of Buxton midway through the second half, with Ward delicately clipping the ball over Boney from the left of the area after being played in on goal.

There were opportunities for both sides to claim a winner, the first of which fell to Sam Hodgson as he latched onto a ball over the top by Boney, but he was unable to get enough on his header to beat Richardson.

There was a goal-line clearance apiece in the closing stages, with Shields substitute Alex Kempster denied at one end before Bodenham made an acrobatic stop to ensure neither team would claim maximum points.

The Mariners will look to continue their impressive run when they travel to Morpeth Town for an eagerly-awaited derby match on Tuesday.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), McGowan, Morse, Bodenham, Tee (Jenkins 76), Lowe, Hodgson, Briggs, Osei (Kempster 76). Subs not used: Shaw, Rose, Rossiter.

Goals: Briggs (2), Bodenham (26).

Attendance: 1,056.

Image: Kev Wilson.

South Shields were pegged back by an 84th minute equaliser after an action-packed second half left them reduced to nine players in a 1-1 draw at Atherton Collieries.

The Mariners had Darius Osei sent off shortly after half-time but battled well and took the lead when Jack Bodenham converted from a Nathan Lowe free-kick.

Atherton’s late leveller forced both sides to settle for a point but Shields ended the game another man light after Dan Martin was given his marching orders deep into stoppage time for a second yellow card.

The lively second half was not in keeping with what had preceded it, with the first 45 minutes devoid of goalmouth action.

The closest either team came followed a ball down the right channel from Lowe to Alex Kempster, who reached it before Atherton goalkeeper Elliot Wynne and sent a flicked effort narrowly wide.

Another opening for the visitors arrived shortly before the half-hour mark as Osei stole possession in the area and drove a ball across the face of goal which had just too much on it for Kempster and Conor Tee.

Arguably the game’s biggest talking point arrived seven minutes into the second half when Osei received a straight red card after the referee adjudged he had kicked out at an opponent.

Shields adapted well to the one-man disadvantage but the hosts did create a number of opportunities to take the lead.

Joel Amado fired not far wide from the edge of the box and the impressive Marcus Cusani cut inside and rifled a shot over as the Colls began to build up some pressure.

Far from feeling satisfied to settle for a point, though, the Mariners launched a series of attacks of their own.

JJ Hooper was introduced from the bench for his debut and almost had an immediate impact, collecting a loose ball 25 yards from goal before curling an effort narrowly past the post, while Lowe also went close with a dipping free-kick from a similar range.

A goal felt inevitable at that stage, although it was unclear which end it would come at.

Next it was Atherton’s turn to threaten, with Shields goalkeeper Myles Boney doing well to deny Aaron Smith by closing the angle and saving with his legs, and Smith then volleying just wide after a long throw was flicked on.

But it was the Mariners who broke the deadlock with just 15 minutes left to play.

Lowe delivered a free-kick to the back post which was prodded goalwards by Bodenham, with the ball squirming under Wynne and just beyond the line to give Shields a lead to hold onto.

Jack Lenihan powered a free-kick over for the home side but Shields looked likely to see the game out until they were undone in the 84th minute, with Gareth Peet advancing down the left and delivering a low cross which substitute Matty Gillam turned in from close range.

Martin was sent off five minutes into stoppage time for a second booking after a trip on Peet, and the resulting free-kick from Elliot Rokka drew a tremendous save from Boney as he plucked it from the top corner with his fingertips.

Despite having just nine players on the pitch, the final attempt at goal was from Shields, with Lowe shooting wide from distance on the left.

There were to be no further goals, though, as the Mariners went into a two-week break from match action with a draw.

South Shields: Boney, Martin, Adams (c), Ross, Morse, Bodenham, Tee, Lowe, Osei, Briggs (Main 56) (McGowan 81), Kempster (Hooper 56). Subs not used: Steavens, Hodgson.

Goal: Bodenham (75).

Attendance: 382.

Image: Kev Wilson.