South Shields hit five past Brighouse Town for the second time this season as they went six points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division on Saturday.
The Mariners went in at half-time with a 2-0 lead after goals from Carl Finnigan and Louis Storey, but Brighouse battled well in the second half, and pulled one back with a strike from Gabriel Johnson.
The hosts’ good spell ended when defender Adam Field was shown a red card for a foul in the penalty area, with Barrie Smith dispatching the resulting spot-kick to restore Shields’ two-goal advantage.
Graeme Armstrong netted his first goal for the club and Alex Nicholson scored late on to seal an ultimately comfortable win for the Mariners against a team they beat 5-0 in August.
Shields started the game strongly, and could have opened the scoring within four minutes when Craig Baxter’s effort from 20 yards was parried to Finnigan, who struck the post with the rebound. The offside flag had already been raised, though.
Finnigan had another chance 10 minutes later as Louis Storey played a superb through ball, but skewed his shot comfortably wide of the target.
He made no such mistake soon after, though. After Jamie Holmes was fouled on the left, Robert Briggs floated in a terrific free-kick which was glanced into the bottom corner by the head of Finnigan, Shields’ top scorer this season.
Brighouse almost levelled things up within a minute when Johnson got in behind, but Liam Connell beat away his effort with his legs.
That was a rare first half opportunity for the hosts, who went a further goal behind a minute into stoppage time, moments after Briggs had seen a shot from distance deflected wide.
The resulting corner saw Briggs curl in another impressive delivery which was this time headed beyond the defenders on the line by Storey as he netted for the second game in a row.
Brighouse had added attacking purpose at the start of the second half, and Rhys Jenkinson’s effort from the edge of the box stung the fingertips of Connell.
Shields looked like they could add a third goal at any moment, though, and almost did that after a sweeping counter-attack which saw Michael Richardson get in behind, and his chip just cleared the crossbar. He was also denied by a fine block less than a minute later.
Brighouse pulled a goal back in the 66th minute when Johnson controlled a cross from the left before firing low past Connell.
The home side enjoyed their best spell of the game as they put the Mariners under pressure in search of an equaliser.
The closest they came to levelling was after an impressive move on the right, with Connell doing well to parry an effort from Aaron Martin.
Their challenge was dealt a major blow with 16 minutes left, though, when defender Field was given a straight red card after a scramble in the area, with the officials ruling that he had denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Smith’s central penalty found the net to restore Shields’ two-goal advantage and put them back into a commanding position.
Ten-man Brighouse could have pulled themselves back into it again soon after, but Smith proved to be their nemesis as he cleared a header from Callum Hall off the line.
The Mariners were well on top in the closing stages, with substitute Matty Pattison pulling the strings.
He played a major part in the final two goals. The first saw him clip a glorious pass beyond the defence for fellow substitute Nicholson, whose ball across the box was slid in by Armstrong as he netted his first goal for the club.
A flick from Pattison also got Smith in behind on the right soon after, and when he pulled it back to his team-mate, Pattison’s effort was destined to find the top corner. On its way in, it struck Nicholson and flew into the opposite corner as the points were wrapped up.
Shields are next in action on Tuesday, when they host Sunderland RCA in the second round of the Durham Challenge Cup, with a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter (c), Lough, Storey, Morse, Briggs, Richardson (Pattison 76), Smith, Armstrong, Finnigan (Nicholson 63), Holmes. Subs not used: Norton, Callaghan, Stephenson.
Goals: Finnigan (23), Storey (45+2), Smith (pen 75), Armstrong (82), Nicholson (86).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields stretched their lead at the top of the table to four points as they got the better of Ramsbottom United in a tough encounter on Saturday.
The Mariners won 3-2 in Lancashire in a match which became nervy in the latter stages as they moved onto the 40-point mark after 15 games.
Ramsbottom twice halved a two-goal deficit in the second half, but strikes from Louis Storey, Jamie Holmes and Carl Finnigan proved to be enough for Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side.
Shields were missing several first-team regulars, with the likes of Julio Arca, Anthony Callaghan, Darren Lough, Michael Richardson and Gavin Cogdon unavailable.
Striker Graeme Armstrong started just a day after completing a move to the club from Spennymoor Town, and he battled well as he helped his new team to maximum points.
The Mariners started strongly, and their first sights of goal saw Robert Briggs twice denied by blocks.
He was to play a key role in the opener, which arrived in the 14th minute, as his free-kick from the left was nodded towards goal by Dillon Morse and prodded in from close range by Storey.
Ramsbottom struggled to make an impact at the top end of the pitch in the early stages, but Philip Dean tested Liam Connell with a low effort from the edge of the box which took an awkward bounce.
It was a testing playing surface for both teams to cope with, but the Mariners rolled up their sleeves to take control.
They went close to doubling their advantage just after the half-hour mark after some superb play by Holmes as he dribbled past a number of players before the ball was worked to Andrew Stephenson, who struck the foot of the post with a shot across goal.
The hosts could have equalised shortly afterwards as they countered from a Shields corner.
Connell was beaten in a foot race with Dean on the left and was left stranded, but the Ramsbottom midfielder’s pass across the box was well cut out by makeshift left-back Matty Pattison.
Outfield player Ben Richardson was forced to go in goal for the home side late in the first half when goalkeeper Danny Taberner was forced off with an injury.
He performed well, but was beaten by an Armstrong header which went past the post in the 43rd minute.
Shields’ second goal arrived seven minutes into the second half when Briggs picked out Stephenson on the right and his excellent delivery was chested down by Holmes, who then hit an effort which struck defender Jacques Kpohomouh before finding the net.
Holmes had an excellent game and almost scored again when he smashed an effort towards a sea of bodies which Richardson managed to push to safety.
Ramsbottom were given a route back into the game when an impressive cross from the left was headed in by substitute Sam Heathcoate in the 64th minute.
But it took just nine minutes for Shields’ two-goal advantage to be restored as Briggs played a superb ball to Finnigan, who got it out of his feet before beating Richardson with a calm finish.
Holmes continued to be a thorn in the hosts’ side, and could have made it four when he beat two defenders with some great skill and fired just over.
Heathcoate again gave Ramsbottom a lifeline when he was found by a defence-splitting pass and then hit a first-time finish to beat Connell.
Despite some nervy moments in the Shields penalty area, though, Connell would not be beaten again as an important three points were claimed by the Mariners.
They are next in action on Saturday, with Tadcaster Albion the visitors to Mariners Park for another league game.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Shaw (c), Morse, Storey, Stephenson (Scott 65), Briggs, Armstrong (Sullivan 79), Finnigan, Holmes. Subs not used: Norton, Smith, Guy.
Goals: Storey (14), Holmes (52), Finnigan (73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields made it seven wins out of seven to start the new season as Jamie Holmes again shone in a 3-1 victory over Ossett Albion at Mariners Park on Tuesday.
Fresh from scoring a brace in the 2-0 Emirates FA Cup win at Witton Albion three days earlier, Holmes struck twice more to help Shields extend their lead at the top of EVO-STIK North to three points.
Louis Storey – making his first start of the season – was also on the scoresheet as the Mariners were again made to work for their victory, with all of the goals scored in the second half.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton had opted to freshen up the team by making five changes, with Anthony Callaghan, Alex Nicholson and Michael Richardson, as well as Holmes and Storey, brought in.
Shields started well, and could have taken the lead within the first two minutes when Robert Briggs found Richardson in a dangerous position, but his well-hit effort was blocked.
Carl Finnigan also sent an early sighter wide after Alex Nicholson got forward well from right-back to provide him with an opportunity, and at that stage it looked set to be a long night for Albion.
They settled into their gameplan, though, and the longer the first half went on, the more difficult to break down they became.
The Mariners were able to get into some dangerous areas, with Briggs – who had an excellent game in midfield – chipping an effort over and Matty Pattison whistling an effort past the post after being played in by Callaghan.
Shields were restricted to attempts from long range in the final half-hour of the first half.
One of those efforts came from Pattison, who saw a shot beaten away by Albion goalkeeper Dylan Parkin.
Parkin was twice beaten by superb efforts in the closing stages of the half, but the Mariners were left to rue their luck.
The first came when Storey broke forward and unleashed a piledriver which flew just over the bar.
Richardson, meanwhile, thought he had scored what would have been one of the goals of the season in stoppage time. He flicked the ball past a defender before rifling a stunning effort into the top corner from just outside the box, but the assistant referee’s offside flag cut the celebrations short. It was certainly a tight decision.
Shields attacked with more purpose in the second half and were rewarded just 60 seconds after the restart.
After playing a great give-and-go with Pattison, Holmes burst into the penalty area on the left and took a touch before arrowing a brilliant shot into the bottom corner.
It was a moment of quality which lit up the game, but the Mariners would have to be patient to seal the victory.
Richardson had an effort deflected narrowly wide while a Finnigan bullet stung the fingertips of Parkin as Shields pushed to do just that.
The breathing space they craved arrived on 73 minutes when Nicholson curled a superb ball onto the head of Storey, who powerfully nodded it past Parkin.
Within two minutes of that, though, Albion pulled a goal back as they threatened a comeback.
It was a fine goal, too, with an outstanding low cross from the right by Declan Dawson fired into the roof of the net by Callum Charlton.
The comeback was swiftly thwarted by Shields as they got back on the front foot and put the game to bed with 11 minutes left.
Nicholson capitalised on a poor goalkeeping clearance and played it towards Holmes on the inside-left of the box. He got on the end of the pass after Dawson failed to get control of it, and made the finish look far easier than it was, taking a touch to beat defender Danny South before hitting a low effort into the corner.
His second half performance deserved a second goal, and helped to earn the Mariners a 44th win in 45 games.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Lough, Storey, Arca (c), Briggs, Pattison (Baxter 66), Finnigan (Cogdon 74), Richardson, Holmes (Sullivan 81). Subs not used: Shaw, Morse.
Goals: Holmes (46, 79), Storey (73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.