By Daniel Prince
South Shields fell to a disappointing 4-0 defeat at Whitehaven on Thursday as they paid for a poor first half performance.
After a long and eventful journey that took the best part of four hours, the game eventually got underway at 8.30pm, but Shields struggled to get going.
It took just six minutes for Whitehaven to take the lead, and the tone for the night was set there and then.
The ball was played in from the right, and Kevin Connelly was allowed to turn before firing a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
It could have been 2-0 on eight minutes when Craig Robson got in behind the Mariners defence on the left, but his effort across goal smashed back off the post and Connelly narrowly failed to slide in the rebound.
Dan Hall shot wide moments later for Shields, but they struggled to gain a foothold in the game and soon came under increasing pressure.
Whitehaven were making real inroads down the left flank, and left-back John Hunter’s long throws were causing problems.
Shields goalkeeper Jak Wells and his defence managed to bundle one clear, before Darren Donald shot wide after another long throw.
The Mariners earned some respite from then as manager Jon King opted to alter his formation to combat Whitehaven’s threat down the left, and Adam Burnicle almost brought them level.
On 22 minutes, he dipped an effort from distance just over the bar, although the visitors would soon concede a second goal.
In the 33rd minute, a superb flick from Connelly fell perfectly into the path of Donald, who slotted past the onrushing Wells to double Whitehaven’s lead.
Wells got a hand on the shot, but could not prevent it hitting the far corner.
Shields did improve after that, and Chris Feasey should have pulled one back four minutes before the break after Stephen Ramsey’s cutback, but he miscued his effort wide.
Hall then hit the post after cutting in from the left, where he had been switched by King after the early Whitehaven dominance.
Hall’s shot looked to be heading in, but the effort agonisingly rolled along the ground before bouncing off the post to safety.
The Mariners took some momentum into the second half, and then enjoyed their best spell of the game.
They dominated the early exchanges of the second half, with Colin White the first to go close when his powerful shot from 30 yards went just over the bar.
Shields should have got a goal back on 51 minutes, but Hall saw an effort blocked before White went inches away from sliding into an empty net from the resulting corner.
Ramsey then got in behind the home defence and saw a shot parried by Whitehaven goalkeeper Danny Eccles, and then had the chance to square it to a team-mate who would have had an empty net to aim at.
However, Ramsey’s pass was intercepted by the Whitehaven defence.
Shields felt home left-back Hunter should have been sent off on 56 minutes for an apparent elbow on Feasey, but the referee opted to show him a yellow card.
Feasey picked himself up and went close to scoring two minutes later, but the Mariners were to pay for their missed chances.
Whitehaven should have gone three up on 59 minutes when Donald somehow shot wide from in front of goal, and then went close to scoring three times in quick succession six minutes later.
Wells managed to parry two efforts, while another was blocked, but Shields were suddenly under pressure again.
They almost earned a respite on 69 minutes when substitute Alex Berhan’s shot went just wide, but were then undone five minutes later.
Whitehaven began to exploit the left side again, and the ball was played across to Matthew Tymon, who slotted home.
Three minutes from the end, the scoreline was given a more convincing look when the home side scored a fourth.
The intelligent Connelly wriggled past two Shields defenders before slotting past Wells to complete a wretched night for the visitors.
Substitute Ricky Fenwick volleyed wide for the Mariners at the far post as the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark, but by then the game was over and Shields were eventually put out of their misery.
They do not get long to recover from the loss, though, as Shields are back in action at home to Alnwick Town on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Wells, Locke, Riding, White (Danquah 70), Clarey, Richardson, Hall (Fenwick 78), Feasey (Berhan 62), Ramsey (c), Peter Kane, Burnicle. Subs not used: Greenwell.
By Daniel Prince
South Shields make their longest trip of the league season tomorrow (Thursday) when they travel to Whitehaven.
The Northern League Division Two fixture had been originally scheduled for December, only for it to be postponed due to the weather.
Last week, it was announced the game would be played this Wednesday, only for it to later be switched to Thursday.
Shields go into the game on the back of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Tow Law Town, which saw the Lawyers celebrate their record 3000th Northern League fixture.
The Mariners are now into some rhythm of playing games after going so long without a league match between January and March, although it has been a challenge to get a team together for tomorrow’s long trip.
A win for Jon King’s side will see them rise a place to 15th in the table, above Willington on goal difference.
It will also take them past the 40 points barrier, and they will still have 11 more league games to play – six less than some sides.
Whitehaven, meanwhile, sit 17th, three points behind Shields.
However, it would take a victory of more than a 10-goal margin for them to leapfrog the Mariners.
Nevertheless, the two sides seem to be competing for a similar league placing this season, and this match will go some way to deciding which club finishes higher.
When the two met in October, Shields came out on top with a 2-1 victory at Eden Lane.
P14. W7. D2. L5. G26. A27. Total GD -31. Pts 35. League table position: 17th.
Form. Last six games seven points, form table placing 12th.
South Shields. AWAY.
P15. W3. D7. L5. G23. A31. Total GD -10. Pts 38. League table position: 16th.
Form. Last six games six points, form table placing 14th.
For any making the trip over independently, the postcode for the Focus Scaffolding Sports Complex, situated on Coach Road, is CA28 9DD, ground tel. 01946 69224.
South Shields’ next game is at home against Alnwick Town on Saturday, March 29.
It has been confirmed that the Northern League Division Two trip to Whitehaven will take place on Thursday night.
The game had originally been scheduled for December, only for it to be postponed, and last week it was announced it would be held this Wednesday.
However, that has now been amended to Thursday.