South Shields conceded a stoppage time equaliser as Trafford came from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw at Mariners Park on Saturday.
A first half stunner from Robert Briggs and a 69th minute strike by Carl Finnigan had put the table-topping Mariners into a commanding position in their final home game of 2017.
However, the Manchester-based side pulled a goal back thanks to a superb hit by Louis Corrigan, and then levelled things up a minute into stoppage time when substitute Mark Derbyshire bundled the ball home.
Shields were left frustrated after dominating most of the possession and chances, as their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division was reduced to four points.
The Mariners came through a difficult test away to Trafford on the opening day of the season, recovering from a one-goal deficit to win 2-1.
This time, though, they were on top from the start as they attempted to put some early pressure on their visitors.
Graeme Armstrong hit an effort wide within the first two minutes, while long-distance drives from Briggs and Finnigan went close. Briggs’ effort was well held by Trafford goalkeeper Grant Shenton, and Finnigan’s went not far past the post.
The next period of the game was one of frustration for Shields as they held the ball well but were unable to break through the defence, with their final pass not quite as sharp as required.
But then, 10 minutes before half-time, a moment of inspiration from Briggs saw the deadlock broken.
He collected the ball 25 yards out and then sent it swinging into the top corner, leaving Shenton with no chance as he netted his sixth goal of the season.
Briggs then nearly smashed home another special as his long-range free-kick came back off the post.
Shields cranked up the pressure in the closing stages of the half as they tried to double their lead, with Jamie Holmes the next to go close as he weaved his way through from the left before seeing Shenton beat away his shot. Dillon Morse headed over from the corner which followed.
Shenton was again key to keeping Trafford just a goal behind as the first half ticked into stoppage time as he excellently tipped over a cracking effort by Matty Pattison which was destined to find the roof of the net.
Shields will have been confident of adding to their goal tally after half-time, and went close within three minutes of the restart when a good move led to a lay-off by Armstrong to Craig Baxter, who fired narrowly over.
Finnigan also had two decent efforts as he first hit a shot wide after a cross by Pattison, and then saw a shot pushed past the post by Shenton after another flowing move.
Trafford almost got back on level terms, though, shortly after the hour mark when Jack Dorney tested Liam Connell with a powerful drive which the Shields goalkeeper did well to tip over.
The Mariners pressed on after that, and Julio Arca almost had a perfect introduction from the bench after being brought on in the 64th minute.
His first involvement saw him launch a superb run through the centre before his low shot was well saved by Shenton.
Shenton was beaten for a second time just five minutes later, though, as Finnigan drove inside from the right before picking out the bottom corner as he scored for the 17th time this season.
Trafford got a route back into the game 17 minutes from the end as a long ball forward saw Corrigan get in behind on the left, and he fired home a stunning effort from just outside the box.
Shields were still the team in the ascendancy, and had opportunities to kill the match off.
Pattison hit a shot into the side netting, substitute Gavin Cogdon was denied by a fine save from close range and Briggs had a header blocked in one frantic period.
Shenton also did well to keep out a low effort from Pattison as he got in behind on the right, but with Shields continuing to dominate possession, it looked likely they would see the game out to claim maximum points.
Trafford became frustrated in the closing stages, and a number of late challenges enraged much of the Mariners Park crowd of 1,461.
However, the visitors were to have the final say as they launched a counter-attack down the right a minute into stoppage time, and when a cross was flicked on, Derbyshire was on hand to nudge the ball home.
Shields tried to pick themselves up and force a winner, but it was not to be as they dropped their first points at home this season.
They are back in action on Boxing Day as they make the trip to Kendal Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Briggs, Pattison, Smith (Arca 64), Armstrong (Cogdon 69), Finnigan, Holmes. Subs not used: Storey, Callaghan, Richardson.
Goals: Briggs (35), Finnigan (69).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Mariners Park is set to host its final game of a remarkable 2017 on Saturday as Trafford make the journey to South Tyneside.
South Shields will be looking to end a near-perfect calendar year of home matches on a high against a side they defeated 2-1 in an eventful opening game of the season in August.
This will be the Mariners’ 29th home match of the year in all competitions, and they will be looking for their 26th win. The only blemishes on their record came via a defeat to Hartlepool United in the FA Cup, a draw against Morpeth Town in the Northern League and a draw against Farsley Celtic in the Integro Cup. Shields went on to win that tie on penalties.
Evo-Stik North leaders Shields go into Saturday’s game with a 14-point lead on seventh-placed Trafford, with five matches in hand.
However, the Manchester-based side proved how capable they are on the opening day of the season as they took the lead against the Mariners and battled all the way before succumbing to a narrow defeat.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton feels his team will need to improve on the performance which saw them beat Sunderland RCA 3-2 in the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday if they are to come out with maximum points.
He said: “It was a really tough encounter at their place on the opening day, and there was a bit of niggle in the game. It’s going to be a difficult match.
“If we perform to the levels we did on Tuesday, we’re going to walk away from the game with nothing to show for it.
“We’re going to have to find the motivation that for whatever reason didn’t seem to be there with some players on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game, because it’s going to be a really tough one.”
On Trafford’s form, Picton added: “They had a really poor start to the season, for the quality of players that they’ve got in their squad.
“They’ve picked up over their last 10 games or so, although they conceded six against Hyde in their most recent fixture.
“As tough a game as it’s going to be, if we can get our levels right and get ourselves prepared properly, we can score goals against anyone at this level. That’s hopefully what we’re going to do.”
Shields are hoping to have a close to full strength squad available after a strong showing in training on Thursday.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm, with admission – costing £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s – to be paid at the turnstiles.
The turnstiles at Mariners Park will be open at 12.30pm, so we hope you can come down early and enjoy what is our final home matchday of 2017.
In the marquee, while stocks last pints of Heineken and John Smith’s will be available for £2.
In addition, we will have entertainment for you after the match, so please stay behind to take advantage of that. Singer Jonathan Page will be performing in the O’Brien Lounge from 5pm.
We hope you have a fantastic day – come and celebrate what has been a brilliant year for the club!
Carl Finnigan was in the thick of the action as South Shields marked their first game in EVO-STIK North with a 2-1 win at Trafford on Saturday.
Finnigan scored what proved to be the winner in the second half, but was controversially sent off in stoppage time after an altercation with a member of Trafford’s coaching staff.
Shields were given a stern test of their credentials at Shawe View Stadium, and fell behind six minutes before half-time when a shot across the face of goal was turned in by former Halifax Town and Chorley striker James Dean.
Jon Shaw headed in the Mariners’ first goal of the season a minute into first half stoppage time to send the teams in level at the break, and Shields went on to battle to victory in the second half.
It was a tough baptism in the Northern Premier League for the Mariners as they played their first game at that level since the club reformed in 1974.
They were up against a Trafford side which finished just one place outside the EVO-STIK North play-off positions last season, and are being tipped to launch another promotion challenge in the forthcoming campaign.
Both sides had good spells in the first half, but the Mariners had the better of the chances.
The first of them came after impressive interplay between Finnigan and Jamie Holmes on the left of the area, which led to an effort by the latter which hit the side netting.
The Mariners had particular joy with set pieces, from which most of their first half opportunities came.
An early sighter came the way of Shaw, who met a Matty Pattison corner at the near post, only to see his effort go wide of the opposite post.
A better chance fell to Holmes soon after, with a flowing move down the right leading to a cross by Craig Baxter which found the forward in the six-yard box. However, the ball was slightly behind Holmes, and so he was unable to get direction on his header and it was saved by home goalkeeper Grant Shenton.
Trafford’s first real effort came when the dangerous Kingsley Williams cut inside from the right and fired in a shot, but it went comfortably wide of Liam Connell’s goal.
The Mariners went close when another Pattison corner found the head of Holmes, and with his effort destined to go wide, Michael Richardson desperately tried to slide it in, but was just unable to get contact on the ball.
Trafford got out of jail again on the half-hour mark when a deft free-kick from the right by Pattison was met by the faintest of flicks by Richardson, who was kept off the scoresheet by a goal-line clearance from Andrew Keogh.
The home side took the lead in the 39th minute. Substitute Ashley Woods pulled off an impressive turn in the area and saw his low shot kicked away by Connell to Alastair Brown just inside the box. His effort was destined to go wide, but went straight into the path of Dean, who was able to flick it over the line.
Shields responded well and scored the set-piece goal they had been threatening a minute into first half stoppage time.
Pattison’s corner from the right floated beyond the home defence and goalkeeper, and met Shaw at the back post, who was able to head into an empty net.
Being level at half-time was the least the Mariners deserved in their first taste of EVO-STIK North action.
They almost took the lead 13 minutes into the second half, but a dipping effort from distance by Robert Briggs nestled on top of the net.
At the other end, a decent spell by Trafford saw them put Shields under some pressure, and the closest they came to going back ahead was when a stabbed shot by Stephen Mason was cleared out for a corner by Baxter.
Within a minute of that, the Mariners went 2-1 up.
Dillon Morse brought the ball out of defence and lofted a ball forward towards Holmes, who put his defender under pressure and forced him into a mistake. Holmes wrestled control and squared it for Finnigan, who calmly rolled the ball home to delight the big travelling support.
Finnigan could have put the game to bed five minutes later when he was fed by a superb Holmes through ball, but after initially believing he was offside, he rushed his effort and was unable to get clean contact on it, making it a routine save for Shenton.
Trafford managed to push Shields back in the closing stages, and were not far away from equalising when substitute Sean Yeldrem found the side netting with a volley.
They went even closer six minutes from the end when Connell pulled off a stunning one-handed save to deny Louis Corrigan, whose piledriver from the left was destined for the top corner.
Surprisingly, the officials indicated there would be seven minutes of stoppage time, but the Mariners managed to keep the ball in their opponents’ half for most of the additional minutes.
They could have wrapped it up when Luke Sullivan was presented with an opportunity from a corner, but he headed over.
The game’s flash point arrived in the sixth minute of stoppage time when Shields’ Alex Nicholson tried to keep a ball in play and tangled with a member of Trafford’s coaching staff on the touchline. Finnigan came rushing in to support his team-mate, and appeared to break the two up. However, the referee gave him his marching orders, ruling that he had committed violent conduct, while the coach was also sent from the touchline.
It was an unsavoury end to an entertaining game as Shields got off to a winning start in their new league.
They will hope to make it two wins from two on Tuesday when they host Brighouse Town at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw (c), Morse, Briggs, Nicholson, Pattison (Smith 64), Finnigan, Richardson (Storey 85), Holmes (Sullivan 71). Sub not used: Norton.
Goals: Shaw (45+1), Finnigan (62).
Sent off: Finnigan (90+6).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.