South Shields ended Matlock Town’s unbeaten start to the season as a superb away performance set the platform for a 2-1 win in Derbyshire on Saturday.
The victory was hard-fought but deserved for the Mariners as they bounced back from their Emirates FA Cup replay defeat at Colne four days earlier.
Captain Jon Shaw – deployed in a striking role – broke the deadlock less than a minute into the second half with a stunning volley from just outside the box.
Vice captain Robert Briggs doubled the lead with a nerveless penalty before the hour mark and although Marcus Marshall pulled one back for the hosts towards the end, Shields held firm to claim a welcome three points.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton introduced Shaw and Briggs to the Shields starting line-up, and the early signs suggested this was a team determined to return to winning ways after their midweek disappointment.
The new strike pairing of Shaw and Jason Gilchrist combined less than two minutes into the game, with Shaw’s flick latched onto by Gilchrist, whose superb lob dropped just past the post and into the side netting.
The Mariners went close again when Josh Gillies whipped in a corner from the right and Gary Brown directed it goalwards, but home goalkeeper Jonathan Stewart was able to push away his header.
Shields produced some bright moments in the first half, but were unable to find a way past Stewart.
He narrowly won a race with Gilchrist for a loose ball after a lofted pass by Briggs, with the striker having been destined to score had he got there first.
Matlock launched a swift break and threatened to get in behind when the ball was slipped through towards Marshall, but Brown was alert to the danger and made a vital interception.
Shaw and Gillies both went close for Shields with deflected efforts which went wide, while at the other end, a brace of free-kicks from the dangerous Daniel Bramall flew narrowly wide, although goalkeeper Myles Boney appeared to have both of them covered.
The best chance of the half came from the last action of it after Shields played a short corner on the left.
The ball was eventually swung in and met by the head of Dillon Morse before hitting the top of the bar and bouncing out to Gilchrist, who hammered a volley just over the top.
The Mariners will have been satisfied with their first half performance but mindful of the need to convert their possession, territory and chances into goals. They did not have to wait too long to do just that after the break.
Less than a minute into the second half, the breakthrough arrived in stunning fashion.
Adam Thurston did superbly on the right to put Matlock under pressure before sending in a cross which was headed out as far as Shaw on the edge of the box. The captain kept his eye on the ball and watched it onto his right foot before rifling a terrific volley into the bottom corner, with the power on the strike giving Stewart no chance.
Shaw revelled in the goal as he rolled back the years and showed the striker’s instincts which saw him have such success in that position with the likes of Gateshead, Burton Albion and Luton Town before switching to central defence with Shields.
Another acrobatic effort from the skipper came in the 56th minute as he got on the end of a long throw from Brown, but this time a defender was in the way to block and clear the danger.
Shields did strike again before the hour, though, and again Thurston was at the heart of it as he drove at the Matlock defence from the right before being bundled over in the area.
Briggs took the ball and made no mistake from the spot with a sweet strike into Stewart’s bottom left corner to extend the Mariners’ advantage.
Matlock were attempting to protect their unbeaten start to the season and showed great fight in the closing stages as they tried to force their way back into the game.
The lively Bramall had a shot deflected wide after cutting inside from the left before the hosts halved the deficit with a move which originated on the same flank.
The ball was eventually played into Marshall who after receiving it with his back to goal, turned well and fired it past Boney from 12 yards to set up a grandstand finish.
Shields did well to largely restrict the home side’s opportunities in the final 15 minutes despite a flurry of deliveries into the penalty area.
They could have made the points safe at the other end, with Shaw going closest as he got on the end of a fine move before pulling the trigger on the inside-right of the area and seeing the ball whistle just wide.
Shaw ended the game back in defence as the Mariners defended their lead, and the best chance for an equaliser fell to Matlock’s goalkeeper Stewart after he came forward for a corner in stoppage time. The ball fell to him 12 yards out and it was a presentable opportunity, but he blazed high and wide with his weaker foot.
Shields effectively saw the game out to take their tally to 13 points from their first six league matches heading into next Saturday’s encounter with second-placed Basford United at Mariners Park.
Before that, it’s a trip to Tadcaster Albion in the Integro Cup on Tuesday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Thurston, Briggs (Baxter 83), Gilchrist (Annear 67), Gillies (Mason 64), Shaw (c). Subs not used: Charlton, Alli.
Goals: Shaw (46), Briggs (pen 59).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields have the task of ending Matlock Town’s unbeaten start to the league season when they travel to Derbyshire on Saturday.
Matlock have started the campaign in superb form, having picked up four wins and two draws in their first six games under new manager Steve Kittrick.
Shields have had a good start to the league season too, with 10 points having been accrued from their first five matches, so an intriguing encounter lies in wait at the picturesque Proctors Cars Stadium.
The Mariners suffered disappointment in midweek after losing their Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round replay at Colne.
They remain in good shape in the league, though, and have games in hand on all those teams around them heading into Saturday’s fixture.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton knows his side have a difficult assignment as they look to end Matlock’s unbeaten start.
But he says it is a challenge the Mariners should relish.
He said: “We have to move on to Saturday now.
“In some ways I hope it’s the perfect next game for us, because it’s a really tough test against a Matlock side in good form.
“We’ll see what the personality of our group is like and this match will be a pretty good indication as to what we may or may not need moving forwards.
“There have been a lot of conversations since Tuesday and the players have a really simple choice.
“They can feel sorry for themselves or they can react to it in the way we’d like them to.
“Myself and Graham (Fenton) are very self-reflective and will always take our share of the responsibility, but the players really need to take their share of it as well to turn this situation around.
“It’s not even nearly a crisis or anything like that, but it’s very unusual for us not to score in two consecutive games as we did in the two ties against Colne.
“We need to put that right very quickly.”
Shields midfielder Robert Briggs is doubtful for the match after missing out on Tuesday’s game with a hip injury picked up last weekend. The Mariners also remain without midfielder Luke Daly, who is out with a longer-term knee injury.
The biggest positive this season for the Mariners has been their defensive record, with just three goals conceded across seven competitive matches.
It is their goalscoring record that they now must improve.
Picton added: “Quite clearly the defensive side has not been an issue for us.
“We’ve only conceded three goals this season, so that’s not the problem.
“Some quality individuals need to start taking responsibility for producing quality moments in the games, which has unfortunately been sadly lacking over the last two matches.”
Kick-off at Proctors Cars Stadium – which has a post code of DE4 3AR – is at 3pm.
The Shorts Lounge at the ground, which is Matlock’s social club, will be open early to allow supporters the opportunity to watch the 12.30pm Premier League kick-off between Liverpool and Newcastle United.
South Shields ended Matlock Town’s 10-match unbeaten run in the Evo-Stik Premier Division in emphatic style as they honoured the memory of Jak Fada with a 5-0 win.
Just over a year on from the 10-year-old’s tragic death, the club labelled the match against Matlock as Jak Fada Day as children were allowed entry to the ground for free.
Those present watched a terrific display from Shields, who raced into a 3-0 first half lead thanks to an opener from Carl Finnigan and two from Gavin Cogdon.
The Mariners continued their dominance after half-time and wrapped up the three points with further goals from Jon Shaw and David Foley.
The result kept Shields seventh in the table, nine points off table-topping Nantwich Town with four games in hand.
They went into Saturday’s match expecting a difficult encounter against arguably the league’s most in-form side.
However, despite a strong opening five minutes from Matlock, Shields were in control throughout and thoroughly deserved their comfortable victory.
The Mariners first threatened a breakthrough in the ninth minute when a clearance from visiting goalkeeper Ross Durrant fell to the feet of Ursene Mouanda 30 yards out, and the midfielder was not far away from registering his first goal for the club as his effort looped just over.
They did not have to wait too much longer, though.
Captain Shaw clipped a ball over the top and Lee Mason ran onto it before rounding Durrant and seeing his shot from a tight angle cleared off the line by Adam Yates. Finnigan was determined to get to the loose ball first and did so before ramming it first time into the roof of the net.
It was a poignant moment as Finnigan opened the scoring in the 11th minute – Jak Fada would have been 11 now.
Shields played some outstanding football in the first half and doubled their lead after a terrific flowing move.
Robert Briggs played the ball inside from the right to Finnigan, who hit it first-time beyond the defence for Mason to run onto. Mason sent it across the face of goal and it struck defender Taron Hare before bouncing in off the knee of Cogdon.
Mason was at the heart of much of Shields’ best play and he was unfortunate not to add to the scoring when he got on the end of a Finnigan flick-on and fired over.
Goal number three did arrive before the half-hour mark as Blair Adams split the defence with a superb through ball and Cogdon raced onto it before beating Durrant with an audacious dink.
Matlock were perhaps fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards when Durrant appeared to handle the ball outside the box, but the referee ruled it was inside the area and then penalised Cogdon, who had stolen the ball from the goalkeeper.
Shields hit the bar a minute before half-time when a Briggs corner was headed against the woodwork by a Matlock defender, and Cogdon almost completed a first half hat-trick as Durrant kept out his low drive.
There was no complacency in the second half from the Mariners, who extended their advantage in the 52nd minute.
Briggs curled in a terrific free-kick from the right and Shaw directed a brilliant header into the opposite corner to end any hopes Matlock had of staging a dramatic comeback.
Finnigan went close again when he fired over from a Briggs through ball, before Matlock hit the post when a ball in from the right was diverted towards goal.
Adams, Mason and Craig Baxter all went close, and Phil Turnbull almost netted his first goal for Shields as a ball across the area from Gary Brown was smashed into the side netting.
The fifth goal did arrive six minutes from the end when Briggs again split the defence with a fine through ball and Foley produced a sublime disguised finish on his 100th appearance for the club.
Foley was denied from point-blank range soon after but Shields had already done more than enough to secure the three points.
Next Saturday’s trip to Nantwich promises to be quite some occasion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Mouanda (Brown 71), Briggs, Mason, Finnigan (Gillies 59), Cogdon (Foley 64). Subs not used: Lough, Harmison.
Goals: Finnigan (11), Cogdon (21, 27), Shaw (52), Foley (84).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.