South Shields made it eight home wins in a row as they produced a solid display to beat Stafford Rangers 2-0 in front of the highest crowd of the season at 1st Cloud Arena.

Goals in either half from JJ Hooper and Cedric Main ensured Shields took maximum points on Non-League Day to maintain the pressure on leaders Buxton at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

The game was watched by a tremendous gate of 2,676 after the club had earlier hosted iconic BBC show Football Focus as the Mariners were broadcast to the nation on a memorable day.

Stafford came into the game boasting the league’s best away record and chasing a play-off spot after a run of just one defeat in their previous 15 matches.

They created the first opportunity of the afternoon, but Jake Charles’ overhead kick was speculative and comfortably cleared the crossbar.

Jordan Hunter was prominent throughout the game on Shields’ right and he produced a fine cross on six minutes which was turned over by Hooper, a late addition to the starting line-up after Sam Hodgson was forced to withdraw through injury in the warm-up.

A better chance fell the way of Will McGowan when Stafford goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt dropped a cross from Blair Adams, but he was unable to find the target from 10 yards as the visitors breathed a huge sight of relief.

Rangers grew from there and had their best spell of the match.

Set-piece specialist Tom Tonks warmed the palms of Myles Boney with a free-kick from the left of the box, with the Mariners goalkeeper doing well to push the ball over the bar.

Tonks went even closer within two minutes of that when he was found by a Kaiman Anderson cutback and struck the base of the post before the ball cannoned against Hunter and behind for a corner.

A long throw by Tonks was then hooked over by James O’Neill as Stafford continued to pressure, but Shields stemmed the flow of Stafford attacks and added some impetus of their own.

A dangerous Hooper cross was awkwardly cleared by Andrew Burns and although there were strong home appeals for a penalty, the referee waved play on.

Ten minutes before half-time, the breakthrough arrived for the Mariners.

Darius Osei played the ball into McGowan and he showed nifty footwork to beat Joe Dunne and slip in Hooper, who took a touch and produced a clinical finish to put his side in front.

There were further chances at both ends in the remainder of the first half, but neither goalkeeper was tested before the sides returned to the dressing rooms as Tonks was off target at one end and Adams was likewise at the other.

Stafford went close to equalising less than eight minutes after the restart when Alex Fletcher’s free-kick from the left found Tre Pemberton, but Boney ensured the ball did not squeeze past him with a smart stop at his near post.

Shields continued to regularly find Hunter on the right and he threatened his first goal of the season after Robert Briggs picked him out with a fine ball. After cutting inside, though, he could only fire over.

Stafford had two attempts to level things up as the second half reached its midpoint, with a powerful drive by Charles held by Boney and Anderson shooting over after a twist and turn outside the area.

The decisive moment arrived in the 74th minute, though, as the Mariners doubled their lead to effectively make the points safe.

Osei got the ball under control 10 yards inside the Stafford half before looping it over the top for Main to run onto, and the substitute raced through before dinking the ball into the bottom corner with a fine piece of composure.

Stafford are a spirited side and searched for a route back into the game, albeit to no avail.

Anderson had a header saved by Boney while at the other end, Main had a shot blocked and Osei dragged an effort past the post.

The Mariners were determined to keep a clean sheet but did not have things all their own way as they were made to sweat for it in the final minutes.

Boney did well to beat away a cross from substitute Theo Bailey-Jones and Shields had to scramble a cross to safety in the immediate aftermath.

Bailey-Jones also had an attempt deflected over from a Fletcher corner while in the second minute of stoppage time, Boney produced a tremendous fingertip save to deny Fletcher as his shot arrowed towards the top corner.

Shields saw it out to claim an important three points and ensure the gap to leaders Buxton stayed at two points after the Bucks were 3-0 victors at Witton Albion.

The Mariners are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Gainsborough Trinity.

Kevin Phillips’ side have five league matches remaining as they chase the one available automatic promotion spot.

They are now seven points clear of Matlock Town and Scarborough Athletic in third and fourth respectively after those sides played out a 0-0 draw

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Kempster 79), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose (Wilding 64), Briggs, Hooper (Main 64), McGowan, Osei. Subs not used: Jenkins, Tee.

Goals: Hooper (35), Main (74).

Attendance: 2,676.

Image: Kev Wilson.

With just six league games remaining, every point is crucial as South Shields host Stafford Rangers on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

The Mariners are taking on the team with the best away record in the Pitching In Northern Premier League just three weeks after the sides played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.

Second-placed Shields returned to winning ways with a 4-2 victory over Bamber Bridge last Saturday.

Stafford, meanwhile, lost their 14-match unbeaten record with a 2-1 reverse at home to Lancaster City last weekend, but bounced back on Tuesday with a 1-0 success at Witton Albion.

Manager’s view

Although Shields manager Kevin Phillips was pleased with his side’s improved showing against Bamber Bridge, he insists the Mariners can and must continue to get better, starting against Stafford at 1st Cloud Arena.

Phillips said: “It was very pleasing to win last week but that game also gave us plenty to work on, so it has been good to have another positive week in training.

“There are six games left and there are going to be so many twists and turns because there’s so much football to play.

“All we can affect is what we do, not what other teams do, and eventually it will take care of itself.

“If we can play like we did last Saturday and cut out the sloppiness and silly goals, we’ll come very close to getting out of this league but there’s a lot of work to do.”

Stafford are set to present another difficult test for the Mariners

Phillips added: “The players have already faced these teams and know what to expect pretty much every week but for me, the biggest emphasis is on what we do.

“If we do everything we know we can, do it well and everyone brings their A game, we can beat anyone on any given day.

“You have to respect the opposition though and Stafford will be fully motivated to get a positive result themselves.”

Team news

Phillips could have some difficult selection decisions to make, with Cedric Main a potential returnee after being ruled out of the Bamber Bridge game.

Shields remain without midfielder Callum Ross, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Sam Wilding could make his debut after joining the Mariners on loan from Sunderland on Thursday.

Matchday information

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s. Supporters can pay at the turnstiles or purchase tickets until 12pm on matchday by clicking here.

With the BBC Football Focus cameras in town on Non-League Day, supporters are encouraged to enter the ground as early as possible to potentially be part of the coverage. The show will be live between 12pm and 1pm and the turnstiles will open at the earlier than usual time of 11.45am.

After the game, meanwhile, karaoke returns by popular demand in the marquee.

Those who would prefer alternative entertainment can watch the friendly between England and Switzerland in the clubhouse. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.

Happy Hour pricing will apply in all bars between 6pm and 7pm.

If you are unable to attend the game, follow live updates on the club’s Twitter channel, www.twitter.com/southshieldsfc.

Nathan Lowe’s sublime free-kick earned a point for South Shields as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Stafford Rangers on Saturday.

The Mariners were behind after Joe Cuff fired in for the home side seven minutes before half-time, but Lowe’s superb effort from 25 yards levelled the scores early in the second half.

Shields gathered momentum as they sought to inflict a first defeat in 11 league games on Stafford, but despite creating two clear opportunities for a winner, they were unable to find a way through for a second time.

Mitch Rose was sent off for a second booking in the closing stages as the Mariners were forced to settle for a draw which kept them top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

In the first meeting between the sides since November 2019, Shields made two changes to the team which started the match against Ashton United four days earlier, with the injured Jon Shaw replaced by Alex Kempster and Darius Osei coming in for Sam Hodgson.

Playing against the wind in the first half, the away side started well and created the first opportunity when JJ Hooper and Osei linked up well on the left before each advancing towards the box. Hooper maneuvered his way into a crossing position and delivered to Osei, who headed wide.

Although neither team was in control, most of the rare chances in the opening 45 minutes went the way of Shields. Kempster headed narrowly over from a Jordan Hunter cross and Hooper volleyed over from 12 yards after a flick-on from Osei.

The only attempt at goal from the hosts was a strike from Tre Pemberton which was blocked by Jack Bodenham, with Shields defending a number of long throws effectively.

Seven minutes before the interval, though, Tom Tonks delivered another bullet of a throw from the left flank into the box and it fell to the feet of Cuff, who rifled the ball past Myles Boney.

Shields were delivered a further blow at half-time when Hunter was forced off with a head injury, but Conor Tee performed well in the right wing-back role to help cover for that loss.

Parity was restored in the 54th minute as Lowe lined up a free-kick 25 yards from goal and whipped it into the top corner to spark a short period of domination from the Mariners which they hoped would result in a potentially decisive second goal.

Despite their best efforts, though, it did not arrive.

Osei was tenacious on the left flank and forced an opportunity within three minutes of the restart as he powered his way through, but his cut-back was fired wide by Hooper.

An even better opportunity was presented to Dillon Morse just after the hour mark when Lowe’s corner found him at point-blank range, but the ball came at the defender quickly and he could only head it over.

Stafford stemmed the flow of Shields attacks and although there were some further half-chances for the visitors, they were unable to trouble Mateusz Hewelt in the Rangers goal.

Their task was made more difficult when Rose was forced to sit out the final three minutes after receiving a second yellow card, and the final moments passed with little incident as the teams took home a point apiece.

The Mariners now have a midweek without a game before returning to action at Basford United next Saturday.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Tee 46), Adams (c), Rose, Morse, Bodenham, Lowe, Briggs (McGowan 78), Hooper (Jenkins 90), Osei, Kempster. Subs not used: Rossiter, Hodgson.

Goal: Lowe (54).

Red card: Rose (87).

Attendance: 862.

Image: Kev Wilson.