South Shields’ six-match unbeaten run came to an end as Morpeth Town edged a tight derby at Craik Park.
Liam Noble’s penalty just before the hour mark settled the game in favour of the hosts, who were reduced to nine players in the closing stages after receiving two red cards.
A golden late opportunity for an equaliser was cleared off the line as the Mariners were left frustrated, but they remain second in the Pitching In Northern Premier League, three points behind leaders Matlock Town.
One change was made to the Shields team which started the 2-2 draw with Buxton three days earlier, with Will Jenkins replacing Conor Tee. JJ Hooper and Cedric Main were again ruled out through injury.
After opening the scoring in the second minute at Buxton, Robert Briggs almost enjoyed an even quicker start when he was picked out by Jack Bodenham with less than 60 seconds on the clock, and his clipped effort was destined to find the net before goalkeeper Dan Lowson clawed it to safety.
There was also a clear-cut chance at the other end early on as Noble delivered a cross to the back post which found Jack Foalle, but he could only fire it into the side netting.
The crowd of more than 1,500 were left scratching their heads as to how the game remained goalless on eight minutes. Shields attacked at speed down the left and Blair Adams bundled the ball to Darius Osei with the goal gaping, but a tremendous last-ditch block kept out his shot.
Myles Boney had to be alert as the flurry of early opportunities continued and he did well to deny Foalle before watching Connor Oliver shoot wide from a presentable position.
There was a sense that the opening goal would prove crucial and both teams will have felt aggrieved not to break the deadlock in the first half.
Shields went close again when Will McGowan played in Nathan Lowe down the right of the box and he skimmed an effort narrowly past the upright while at the other end, Boney saved well at his near post from Oliver.
Kevin Phillips’ side started the second half strongly and created the first chance of it, with Dillon Morse heading just over from a Lowe free-kick.
Morpeth ultimately provided the crucial first goal from the spot, though, as Bodenham was penalised for a foul before Noble rolled home from 12 yards.
Shields struggled to break down their hosts in search of an equaliser and almost fell further behind, but Boney produced a tremendous save from Liam Henderson as his strike arrowed towards the top corner.
The match was opened up again when Carl Finnigan was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Jordan Hunter and Noble joined him back in the dressing room for another foul on Hunter which resulted in his second booking of the night.
The Mariners put the nine men under pressure as the clock ticked beyond 90 and after Briggs had a header saved, the best opportunity arrived in the final minute of stoppage time.
After Lowson dropped a cross into the box the ball fell to Sam Hodgson, and his shot was destined for the net before being hacked off the line as Morpeth saw the remaining moments out to claim maximum points.
Shields will aim to return to winning ways when they welcome Atherton Collieries to 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Rossiter 90), Adams (c), McGowan (Rose 71), Morse, Bodenham, Osei (Kempster 79), Lowe, Hodgson, Briggs, Jenkins. Subs not used: Shaw, Tee.
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields make their shortest league trip of the season on Tuesday when they take on North East neighbours Morpeth Town in a meeting between the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s two most in-form sides (7.45pm kick-off).
A big crowd is expected at Craik Park for the eagerly-awaited fixture as both teams look to strengthen their chances of earning promotion to National League North.
No sides have collected more points than Morpeth (10 points) and Shields (13 points) in the last five games, but both are aiming to return to winning ways in Northumberland.
Morpeth were beaten 2-1 at home by relegation-threatened Nantwich Town and Shields were twice pegged back in a 2-2 draw at Buxton on Saturday, so motivation will be higher than ever in both camps.
The Mariners won the reverse fixture 2-0 in October but that was the last time the Highwaymen tasted defeat in the league until Saturday’s reverse.
Kevin Phillips has praised the character of his Shields players heading into Tuesday’s game.
The Mariners have won two and drawn one of Phillips’ first three matches in charge but he is aware this could be their toughest test yet in what looks set to be a red-hot atmosphere.
Phillips said: “I always look forward to derbies.
“I’m sure there’ll be a bit of flak coming our way and my way, but that’s what you play football for.
“The players have shown they can deal with anything and I’m sure a bit of abuse from the sidelines isn’t going to bother them.
“It’s about what we do on the pitch and we’ve certainly got enough in that dressing room to go and win the game if we apply ourselves correctly.”
Morpeth are 11th in the table having recovered from a slow start, with Craig Lynch having transformed the Highwaymen into play-off candidates over recent months.
Phillips added: “Their manager will expect a reaction from their defeat on Saturday and if you can’t get a reaction against your local rivals, there’s something wrong.
“We expect a tough match and we’ve prepared for it right.
“The good thing from my point of view is that I don’t really need to say a lot to these players because they get themselves up for it.
“We’ve got leaders in the dressing room and players with experience that are constantly talking and helping each other.
“We’re in a good place at the moment.”
Shields are second in the table, two points behind leaders Matlock Town.
Shields go into the game without the injured Callum Ross, but are hoping forwards JJ Hooper and Cedric Main will return to contention after missing out on Saturday.
Kick-off at Craik Park – which has a post code of NE61 2YX – is at 7.45pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £6 for concessions and £2 for under-17s and those with a valid student card.
Tickets can be bought in advance by clicking here.
Nathan Lowe’s moment of supreme quality and a fine finish from Sam Hodgson settled a tense North East derby as South Shields returned to winning ways with a deserved victory over Morpeth Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
Lowe curled a terrific effort into the top corner just short of the hour mark as Shields’ domination of the ball was rewarded with the opening goal.
Hodgson stepped off the bench to seal the three points with a perfectly placed shot which ended Morpeth’s resistance and delivered the Mariners a vital three points.
Graham Fenton made two changes to the Shields XI which started against Basford United three days earlier, with Jon Shaw and Lowe introduced in place of Jack Bodenham and Will McGowan.
The Mariners started in composed fashion and immediately took control of possession as they probed for an early breakthrough.
That was not forthcoming, but the first sniff of goal came in the eighth minute as Darius Osei scurried past Joe Walton on the right of the area and pulled a dangerous ball across the area which Alex Kempster was just unable to get clean contact on.
Osei was again the creator midway through the half when he twisted and turned his way into some space before firing in a cross which Kempster headed over.
Kempster was central to many of the hosts’ attacks and he saw a strong appeal for a penalty waved away when Blair Adams swung in a cross from the left and the forward went down under a challenge from Jeff Henderson.
Shields’ dominance in possession continued throughout the first half but Morpeth remained resilient and restricted their opponents to half-chances, with Dan Martin having an effort deflected wide, Dillon Morse heading past the post from a corner and Callum Ross seeing a header comfortably saved. Robert Briggs also had a free-kick saved before the half was out.
After a distinct lack of goalscoring opportunities in the first 45 minutes, the deadlock was almost broken just 20 seconds after the restart as Ben Ramsey attacked down the right for the visitors and got in behind before firing past the post.
The lively start to the second half continued as Shields went close to opening the scoring, with Briggs’ free-kick from 30 yards headed narrowly wide by Morse.
The breakthrough arrived a minute short of the hour mark as Lowe picked out the top corner with a delicious strike from 20 yards which left Lowson grasping at thin air and a crowd of over 2,000 celebrating with the lustiest of roars.
The game had been in need of a moment of quality and Lowe certainly provided it. However, Shields knew that the job was a long way from being done and a response from Morpeth was to be expected.
They fired a warning on 63 minutes when Liam Noble’s effort from distance was well-struck and forced Myles Boney into a decent save.
The Mariners had two sighters of goal as Morse was just unable to divert a Briggs corner goalwards and Kempster narrowly failed to connect with a Martin cross.
The visitors had the next major chance, though, and almost equalised when Ramsey got in down the right and Boney closed the angle but could only watch the ball sail over him and into the side netting.
Shields introduced Hodgson from the bench in place of the limping Adams and he almost made an immediate impact as he drifted in from the left and fired a shot which was deflected wide.
Hodgson’s substitution proved to be inspired and he settled the game with eight minutes left as he was found by Osei and took a touch before brilliantly finding the bottom corner with a placed finish from the edge of the box.
There was no way back from there for Morpeth as the Mariners sent their large and vociferous support with smiles on their faces.
They will go in search of another victory when they travel to league leaders Matlock Town on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Martin, Adams (c) (Hodgson 74), Shaw, Morse, Ross, Tee (Bodenham 82), Briggs, Osei, Lowe (McGowan 90+6), Kempster. Subs: Rossiter, Stead.
Goals: Lowe (59), Hodgson (82).
Image: Kev Wilson.