South Shields made it two wins from two in 2022 as they saw off in-form Radcliffe 2-0 at 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday.
An early Nathan Lowe penalty gave the Mariners the lead and JJ Hooper secured the victory with a fine finish late on to move the Mariners up to third in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
They had set the tone from the first whistle, and had their first sight of goal after just two minutes. Cedric Main evaded two challenges before whipping a low shot narrowly past the post from 20 yards.
The Mariners were strong in the tackle and showing plenty of intent going forward, and their reward came when Conor Tee was tripped inside the box on the right. Lowe took responsibility and thumped the penalty past debutant Jack McIntyre in the Radcliffe goal to hand the hosts a sixth minute lead.
McIntyre joined Radcliffe on the eve of the game on loan from Sunderland and he was called into action when Will Jenkins shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired an effort which the goalkeeper got down to save.
There was another opportunity just after the quarter-hour as Tee’s free-kick struck the wall and Shields kept the ball alive before Tee was found in space inside the box, but his goalbound strike was blocked.
From the resulting Lowe corner, Dillon Morse’s powerful shot was held by McIntyre as the Mariners’ superb start continued.
Against the run of play, though, Radcliffe almost equalised when an impressive move concluded as Bobby Grant played in Callum Gribbin and he looked certain to score, but his clipped effort was excellently cleared off the line by Jack Bodenham.
Having preserved his side’s advantage at one end, Bodenham almost extended it at the other as he got his head on a Lowe corner and the ball bounced towards goal. The header was cleared off the line, though, and despite Shields’ appeals for handball, play was waved on.
The home side maintained their one-goal lead until half-time and started the second half well, but debutant Scott Moloney was called into action for the first time on 51 minutes when Luca Navarro’s strike stung his palms.
Lowe nearly doubled his tally soon afterwards when his 25 yard free-kick rattled the woodwork, and Main created the next chance for himself by wriggling past two defenders before firing over.
Amid a series of substitutions for both sides, goalmouth action was in short supply. One of the replacements, Radcliffe’s Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, fired a warning with 15 minutes of regulation time left as he cut inside from the right and sent a low shot whistling wide.
Shields responded immediately, and Mitch Rose and Lowe both tested McIntyre from distance as they searched for a second goal which would surely have sealed the points. They did not have much longer to wait.
It arrived on 80 minutes when McIntyre’s loose clearance was pounced on by Hooper and he ran towards goal. The chance looked to have evaded him when two defenders got back to cover but Hooper kept his composure, shifted the ball onto his right foot and whipped it into the top corner with a tremendous finish to make it 2-0.
The goal made the final stages less nervy than they could have been as Shields saw the game out with relative ease.
They will go in search of a third consecutive win on Tuesday when they travel to Ashton United.
South Shields: Moloney, Rose, Adams (c), McGowan, Morse, Bodenham, Tee, Lowe, Hooper (Hodgson 87), Jenkins (Briggs 71), Main (Osei 71). Subs not used: Shaw, Kempster.
Goals: Lowe (pen 6), Hooper (80).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields return to action with a home fixture against in-form Radcliffe on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
The Mariners have not played since the New Year’s Day victory over Scarborough Athletic at 1st Cloud Arena, with last Saturday’s trip to Mickleover postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases and widespread player unavailability in the Shields squad.
There is more positive news on that front ahead of the meeting with Radcliffe, who are 14th in the Pitching In Northern Premier League. Shields sit fourth, with games in hand on all those above them, and could go as high as second if they win and other results go their way.
Manager Graham Fenton insists the league table counts for little heading into Saturday’s game.
Radcliffe have been in superb form since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager in October and have tasted defeat just four times in the league since then as they have gradually climbed the table.
The Boro are a different proposition to the team Shields defeated 4-0 in the reverse fixture in September, something Fenton was keen to stress after watching them narrowly beaten by promotion-chasing Bamber Bridge in midweek.
He said: “Having watched Radcliffe on Tuesday, I’m well aware that their current placing of 14th is not a reflection of where they are at.
“They are a much-improved side from the last time we played them in September, and our players are fully aware that this is going to be a really tough examination of where we’re at.
“Since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager, he has got them really well-organised and playing a good brand of football.
“The way they play the game should mean that the match is a very good spectacle, as both teams like to keep the ball on the floor as much as possible and try to play through the thirds from the back.
“We know we’re going to have to be at our best to come away with the three points.”
All those previously infected with COVID-19 are expected to return to contention for Shields against Radcliffe, with Conor Tee, Alex Kempster and Joao Gomes – who were all set to miss the Mickleover game with injuries – also expected to be available.
Fenton is hopeful JJ Hooper and Cedric Main will return after injuries, but Jordan Hunter (arm), Callum Ross (knee) and Myles Boney (ankle) will all miss out.
Shields have covered for the loss of goalkeeper Boney – who is expected to be back in training in 10 days – by signing Barrow goalkeeper Scott Moloney on a one-month loan. He could make his debut on Saturday.
Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday is at 3pm, with the turnstiles set to open at 12.30pm.
Admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s, and tickets – including seats in the newly-improved CEFO Group Stand – can be purchased in advance until 12pm on matchday by clicking here. Cash turnstiles will also be in operation.
Segregation will be in place, with Radcliffe supporters to be directed to turnstiles 3 and 4. Shields fans, meanwhile, can enter the ground through turnstiles 1, 2, 5 and 6.
Happy Hour pricing will be in place at all bars between 12.30pm and 2pm, and from 6pm to 7pm.
Meanwhile, a mobile vaccine team will visit 1st Cloud Arena ahead of the game, offering first, second and booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to anyone aged 12 and over. The minibus will be located outside of turnstiles 1 and 2 between 10am and 3pm.
Programmes are priced at £2 and feature an in-depth interview with cover star JJ Hooper, columns from Graham Fenton and Blair Adams, an in-depth look at Radcliffe, a catch-up with former Shields defender Gary Brown, all the latest from our Foundation, Academy and Ladies team, and so much more.
If you are unable to attend the game, follow live updates on the club’s Twitter channel, www.twitter.com/southshieldsfc.
Supporter segregation is to be in place at Saturday’s Pitching In Northern Premier League match against Radcliffe at 1st Cloud Arena.
The club was informed by Radcliffe that a sizeable away following was expected to travel to the fixture, and after consultation it has been agreed to segregate the two sets of supporters.
Radcliffe fans will be able to enter the ground via turnstiles three and four, with supporter coaches and individuals to be directed to the correct place. South Shields supporters can enter through turnstiles one, two, five and six.
Tickets can be purchased in advance by clicking here, at a cost of £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s. Fans will also be able to pay for their entry at the turnstiles, which will open at 12.30pm.
Radcliffe supporters will have access to food, drink and toilet facilities, as well as cover. Any fans who are unable to stand for the duration of the game are asked to contact SSFC on 0191 454 7800 between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.