South Shields further strengthened their title hopes with a comfortable 4-0 win over Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.
Shields enjoyed almost total control from the outset at Mariners Park – after the game was delayed by half an hour because of problems with the floodlights.
When the match finally did get underway, it took just three minutes for the Mariners to take the lead.
Michael Richardson curled in a superb free-kick delivery from the left, and Aycliffe defender Daniel Mitton could only head the ball into his own net.
After taking an early advantage, Shields never looked likely to let the visitors back into it.
Jamie Owens flashed an effort over for Aycliffe, but that was a rare opportunity.
Shields fielded a side showing seven changes from Saturday’s win at Ryhope Colliery Welfare, and one of those who kept his place was Barrie Smith in the centre of the park.
He put in an impressive performance, and sent a half volley narrowly wide as he tried to extend the Mariners’ advantage.
The second goal came in the 24th minute for Shields after a fine team move, which ended when Craig Baxter’s low ball in the box was slid home by Jordan Blinco on his home debut.
It was Blinco’s third goal for the Mariners in two games, and he almost had another when he went on a strong run before seeing his low effort tipped behind by former Shields goalkeeper James Winter.
Just more than 10 minutes before the break, the points were as good as wrapped up when Wayne Phillips’ inch-perfect cross from the right was headed in by Romanian defender Iulian Petrache.
Smith was inches away from making it 4-0 shortly before half-time, but his effort was deflected not far past the post.
The second half was a lesson in keep ball from the hosts as Aycliffe sat deep.
Richardson and David Foley both had shots saved by Winter, while the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Scott Howes received a second booking.
Shields’ dominance of the ball was even more apparent after that, and they went close a number of times in the closing stages.
Foley went the closest as he stabbed an effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
It looked all set to end 3-0, but with the last kick of the game, Richardson powered a low free-kick into the net to make the scoreline even more comfortable.
The Mariners are now 11 points behind North Shields at the top, and play one of their four games in hand on Thursday when they travel to Sunderland RCA.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Baxter, Callaghan, Lough, Petrache, Arca (c) (Storey 59), Smith, Phillips, Blinco (Stephenson 68), Richardson, Foley. Subs not used: Connell, Cogdon, Morse.
Goals: Mitton own goal (3), Blinco (27), Petrache (34), Richardson (90+4).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields were hit by a late sucker punch as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.
The Mariners dominated the second half and looked the only side likely to score, but Jordan Laidler’s strike a minute from the end snatched the points for the hosts.
Shields now have one point from their opening two Northern League Division One matches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Whitley Bay.
Things couldn’t have started much worse for Shields as Dennis Knight fired Aycliffe into the lead within six minutes.
Home captain Paul Garthwaite released him into space, and the former Newcastle United youngster slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
It almost got worse for Shields when Knight collected the ball six yards out soon after, but this time he could only divert an effort wide.
Louis Storey missed a huge chance to level it for the Mariners as he was unable to convert a Michael Turner cross, but the away side did get back on terms in the 14th minute.
Turner was again the provider, with his deep cross controlled by Gavin Cogdon before he drilled it home for his second goal in as many games.
Laidler fired a free-kick wide for Aycliffe, but by that stage Shields were in the ascendancy, with David Foley denied by a good save from James Winter before Barrie Smith sliced a shot wide.
David Carson also hit one off target after a strong run through the centre, and the teams went in level at half-time.
After the break, the Mariners upped their game, and got stronger the longer the second half went on.
Turner headed just over from a Julio Arca free-kick, while Smith saw a deep cross come back off the crossbar after deceiving all those in the centre.
Carson had a shot well saved by Winter from the edge of the box as Shields increased the pressure, and he hit another effort over after another great run.
With Aycliffe camped deep inside their own half and Shields probing away, a winning goal for the visitors appeared increasingly likely, but it just would not come.
With two minutes left, captain Leepaul Scroggins let fly from the edge of the area and his shot hit a defender, with huge Shields appeals for handball and a penalty waved away.
Aycliffe then went on a rare foray into the Mariners’ half and, after winning a corner, completed their smash and grab victory.
John Campbell’s corner from the left was deep and fell the way of Laidler, who struck it low into the bottom corner to spark home celebrations.
Shields were left with little time to respond, but Cogdon, Carson and Storey all managed to get efforts in before the end, with all failing to beat Winter.
The defeat leaves the Mariners aiming to kick-start their season at Hillheads on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Elliott, Smith, Turner, Storey, Danny Carson, Arca, David Carson, Scroggins (c), Shaw, Cogdon, Foley (Briggs 70). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding, Morse, Byrne.
Goal: Cogdon (14).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields suffered a semi-final exit in the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday with a defeat on penalties to Newton Aycliffe at Mariners Park.
Julio Arca and Michael Turner scored for Shields in a 2-2 draw, with the match going to extra-time.
Arca was later controversially sent off, and Aycliffe went on to win 3-1 on spot-kicks when the Mariners failed to convert three of their efforts.
Above are highlights from the game.
VIDEO: Daniel Prince. STILL IMAGE: Peter Talbot.