South Shields came from behind to move six points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves in a difficult position when substitute Alistair Waddecar fired the hosts ahead with a well-taken goal just before half-time.
They had to show tremendous battling and technical qualities after the break to force their way back on level terms, with Josh Gillies delivering the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Jason Gilchrist headed in what proved to be the winner 16 minutes from the end as the Mariners maintained their tremendous away form and strengthened their hopes of promotion ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Nantwich Town.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made just one change to the side which won 4-1 at Gainsborough Trinity the previous weekend, with Gillies introduced in place of the departed Dom McHale.
The start to the game was relatively even, with neither side seriously threatening an opening goal until Gillies crashed a 25 yard free-kick against the crossbar on 20 minutes and the rebound from Darius Osei was hacked clear.
Shields sensed an opening and attacked their hosts again less than a minute later as Osei beat his man down the left of the box before drilling a low effort which goalkeeper Michael Crowe did well to save with his feet.
Myles Boney was untroubled in the Mariners’ goal until six minutes before half-time when he saved from Waddecar before a further shot from the same player was deflected wide.
Bamber Bridge were beginning to seize control of possession and at that stage Shields would have settled for going in at the break goalless, but that prospect was taken away from them when a long ball from Crowe was collected by Waddecar on the left channel and he swivelled before brilliantly clipping an effort home from a tight angle.
Brig picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and had a golden opportunity to double their lead less than a minute after the restart, but Chris Marlow volleyed wide when well placed in the box.
The home side were even more energetic than they had been in the first half but Shields gained a foothold and had their first chance of an equaliser when Nathan Lowe slipped a ball through to Gilchrist and he was twice denied by blocks from Crowe.
The Mariners thought they had equalised in the 55th minute when Dillon Morse headed in but the offside flag cut short the celebrations, and Shields felt hard done by again when a cross by Gillies appeared to strike the arm of a defender but no penalty was given.
Despite that frustration there was a sense that a goal was on its way, and it duly arrived on 61 minutes.
Blair Adams, Gillies and Gilchrist combined before Phil Turnbull beat his man on the left flank and sent in a cross which bounced in the danger zone and was chested down by Gillies, who turned the ball past Crowe with his second touch.
Shields continued the momentum and found what proved to be the winning goal 16 minutes before the end.
Morse sent Osei scampering down the left with a controlled pass from the back and the forward impressively beat a defender before firing in a cross which Gilchrist was on hand to head home from close range.
The Mariners expected a response from Brig and got it, with Jon Shaw forced to block a shot from Sheldon Green and Myles Boney having to claim more than one dangerous cross into the area.
The introduction of Bali Mumba for his debut injected even more energy and excitement into Shields, though, and he almost wrapped things up in stoppage time when he breezed past a defender before firing into the side netting.
A third goal was ultimately not required as the Mariners extended their advantage at the top ahead of Tuesday’s trip to another promotion contender, Nantwich Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull (Briggs 65), Baxter (Verstraaten 62), Lowe, Gilchrist (Mumba 80), Osei, Gillies. Subs not used: Brown, Ross.
Goals: Gillies (61), Gilchrist (74).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields registered a convincing 4-1 win at in-form Gainsborough Trinity as they moved five points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
The Mariners produced one of their most impressive performances of the season to strengthen their promotion hopes as they built on an early goal from Darius Osei.
Nathan Lowe doubled the advantage 11 minutes before half-time and the away side continued to press on after the break, with goals from Dillon Morse and Josh Gillies sealing the points.
Gainsborough pulled one back from the penalty spot towards the end but could do little to dent what was a superb day for Shields in Lincolnshire.
They looked in determined mood from the outset and had their first sight of goal as early as the second minute as Jason Gilchrist flashed a shot wide from a Dom McHale corner.
The Mariners were dominant in possession and received their reward on nine minutes as Jon Shaw lifted a ball over the defence into the left channel and Osei wriggled his way through before finishing well from a tight angle as he netted his first goal for the club.
Shields were playing front foot football and went close to doubling their advantage on a number of occasions, with Osei firing into the side netting, Lowe sending a piledriver just wide and Blair Adams drilling a low ball across goal which just evaded a touch.
The deserved second goal arrived in the 34th minute as Lowe pounced on a loose ball in midfield and drove forward before hammering a low effort past home goalkeeper George Willis.
There were two good opportunities for the Mariners to make it three before half-time, but Morse and Osei were both narrowly off target with their attempts.
Shields will have expected a strong response from their hosts early in the second half and Gainsborough obliged.
They provided an improved goal threat but were unable to seriously trouble Myles Boney in the Shields goal before the Mariners pressed on again midway through the second half.
Willis did well to tip a long range bullet from Lowe wide but from the resulting corner, the Mariners added a third as Gillies’ cross from the right bounced in the area and was pounced on by Morse, who smashed it past Willis.
A fourth goal was added 10 minutes before the end when Willis saved from Gilchrist before Robert Briggs headed the rebound against the bar the ball bounced to Gillies, who nodded home.
Gainsborough pulled a goal back five minutes from the end as Gregg Smith converted from the spot, but the points had long since been sealed by the Mariners.
They will hope to build on the victory when they travel to Bamber Bridge next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Verstraaten 80), Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Baxter, Lowe, Gilchrist, Osei (Briggs 74), McHale (Gillies 46). Subs not used: Thompson, Ross.
Goals: Osei (9), Lowe (34), Morse (70), Gillies (80).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields returned to winning ways with a spirited 3-1 victory at a windswept Grantham Town to move four points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
The Mariners showed impressive resolve throughout the 90 minutes to defeat their relegation-threatened opponents, despite high winds making it difficult for either side to find any rhythm.
They dealt with the conditions superbly and deservedly held a 1-0 lead from an early Lee Mason strike until a Gary Brown own goal on the stroke of half-time drew Grantham level.
Shields were dominant in the second half and reclaimed their lead when debutant Dom McHale’s whipped corner from the right took a deflection before finding the net, and Josh Gillies completed the scoring late on when his low cross from the left deceived the defence.
The Mariners went into the game with a somewhat depleted squad, with Myles Boney, Blair Adams, Dillon Morse, Darius Osei, Arron Thompson, Jordan Hunter, Luke Daly and Ross Coombe all unavailable, while Phil Turnbull was only fit enough for a place on the bench following an illness.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton were boosted by the comeback of captain Jon Shaw, though, who returned to the starting line-up at the heart of the defence.
Shields were playing against the wind in the first half and the ball repeatedly flew out of play in the early stages before the opening goal arrived in the 12th minute.
Craig Baxter sent a central ball forward which was headed down by Sefton Gonzales to Mason, who saw his initial effort saved by Jon Worsnop before sliding in the rebound.
They went close to adding a second midway through the half as Robert Briggs whipped a tremendous free-kick from the right onto the head of Brown, whose effort went just past the post.
Grantham did not seriously threaten an equaliser despite the wind often making it more difficult for Shields to exit their own half, but they did bring themselves back on level terms a minute into first half stoppage time when Joe Skarz’s free-kick from the left was headed against Brown by Lee Hughes before the ball dropped into the corner of the net.
There was still time for the Mariners to have an opportunity to retake the lead as Jason Gilchrist rounded the goalkeeper and Briggs had an effort blocked, but they took many positives into the break.
They had the wind at their backs in the second half and took full advantage of the conditions with some impressive play.
Shields’ determination and will-to-win was clear for all to see but they would ultimately need patience in their search for a crucial second goal.
McHale replaced the injured Mason at half-time as he made his debut for the Mariners and he was a lively presence throughout the second 45 minutes as his side probed for openings.
There were a number of frustrating near misses, with Nathan Lowe hooking a shot over, Gonzales denied by a block and McHale having a free-kick deflected wide as the pressure began to grow.
The ball was rarely out of Grantham’s half and after Gonzales headed narrowly wide from a Gillies cross, it appeared just a matter of time before Shields found the breakthrough.
It arrived with 17 minutes remaining as McHale whipped in a powerful low corner from the left which deflected against a defender before beating Worsnop. The corner appeared to be on target so McHale took the acclaim and with it, a debut goal.
Gonzales had a big chance to score the goal his endeavour deserved when he got on the end of a right-wing cross from Lowe but his header went just wide.
The Mariners did find a third goal on 85 minutes as Gilchrist held the ball up well and played it back to Gillies on the left, who curled in a teasing low cross which deceived the defence and Worsnop before nestling in the bottom corner.
That put the seal on a deserved and important victory for Shields on a day most of their league rivals were out of action due to the weather.
They are back in action on Saturday when they take on Buxton in another league fixture at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Whitley, Verstraaten, Baxter (Gillies 66), Shaw (c), Brown, Ross, Lowe, Briggs, Gilchrist, Mason (McHale 46), Gonzales (Jenkins 90). Subs not used: Charlton, Turnbull.
Goals: Mason (12), McHale (73), Gillies (85).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.