Blair Adams continued his excellent goalscoring form as his second half strike earned South Shields a hard-fought 1-0 win at Witton Albion on Saturday.
It was a third successive victory for the Mariners and a third goal in as many games for the left-back as he helped his side to the top of the early Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
Wincham Park is a venue which has provided Shields with plenty of challenges in the past and it proved to be another battle for Graham Fenton’s side.
They were unable to find their best levels in the first half despite dominating possession, with clear-cut opportunities in short supply.
Ntumba Massanka drew a decent save from Witton goalkeeper Greg Hall with a low strike from the edge of the box and Darius Osei was also denied from similar range.
Although the Mariners did not demonstrate the level of sharpness they were looking for in the opening 45 minutes, there were several further sights of goal.
The closest they came before half-time was a bullet of a strike from distance by Osei which narrowly cleared the crossbar, while Callum Ross also provided a threat as he stole the ball in midfield and drove forward before curling a shot over.
As the first half ticked into stoppage time Nathan Lowe collected the ball just inside the Shields half and spotted an opportunity no one else on the pitch did as he fired goalwards. The ball hung in the air and looked set to cause Hall a major problem, but he composed himself well to prevent what would have been a spectacular goal.
Shields were sent out for the second half with the instruction to improve their creativity, intensity and sharpness, but they were dealt a major setback within moments of the restart as Jon Shaw was forced off with an injury.
His replacement, Will Jenkins, performed impressively to lessen the blow and provide the Mariners with added impetus going forward.
In the 51st minute, Shields were left scratching their heads as to how they had not opened the scoring.
A blistering strike from the right by Lowe crashed against the crossbar and bounced just the wrong side of the line before falling to Massanka, who also struck the woodwork with a header.
Shields quickly won possession back and Osei was the next to go close, with his powerful effort from 20 yards kept out by a terrific fingertip save by Hall.
It was exactly the start to the second half the Mariners had been looking for, and their reward came on 57 minutes.
Dillon Morse clipped the ball forward and Massanka held it up brilliantly with his head before laying it off to Adams, who dinked it over a defender to break through on goal before slotting past Hall to find the target yet again and break the deadlock.
Osei created a glorious chance for Shields to double their lead as he split the Witton defence with a ball which found Massanka, but as he attempted to round Hall defenders quickly covered to avert the danger.
Alex Kempster was introduced from the bench in the closing stages and he provided a constant threat as the game became stretched.
He felt he should have had a penalty with 12 minutes left after linking up well with Massanka, but after he was challenged and knocked to the ground, play was waved on.
Kempster was a thorn in Albion’s side again less than a minute later as he was found by Massanka on the right of the area, but this time he fired over.
Witton’s biggest threat came from set-pieces but Shields prevented any pressure being built with a number of clearances and impressive claims from Myles Boney, while they continued to enjoy the majority of possession.
They saw out the victory to send the superb travelling support home happy.
The Mariners will look for a fourth successive win on Tuesday when they welcome FC United of Manchester to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (Jenkins 47), Morse, Bodenham, Osei (Kempster 76), Ross, Massanka, Lowe, Briggs (c). Subs not used: McGowan, Tee, Hodgson.
Goal: Adams (57).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields go in search of a third successive victory in the Pitching In Northern Premier League when they travel to Witton Albion on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
The Mariners won 3-1 at Stalybridge Celtic on Tuesday as they followed up their opening day victory over Mickleover with another impressive display.
The results have left Shields sitting second in the primitive Pitching In Northern Premier League table heading into the weekend.
In contrast, Witton are seeking their first victory of the campaign after beginning with a draw and a defeat, but Shields manager Graham Fenton believes little can be read into their extremely early-season form.
Albion did the double over the Mariners the last time the sides met in the league, in the 2019-20 season, and Fenton knows what sort of test awaits his players at Wincham Park.
He said: “We realise that Witton is a very tough place to go.
“They’re probably one of our bogey teams because they’ve caused us a few problems in the past, particularly at their place, so we know how difficult it’s going to be.
“It will likely be very similar to the second half on Tuesday so we’ll have to roll our sleeves up, dig in, back each other up and show really good team spirit.
“The lads showed enough on Tuesday to prove they’re really up for that sort of battle.”
Ntumba Massanka will be looking to continue his fine start to life at Shields, having scored three times in the first two games.
His strike partnership with Darius Osei – who got off the mark for the season with the opening goal on Tuesday – has shown early signs of potential, which Fenton believes has a large part to do with the hard work being put in on the training field.
He added: “It has been really promising to see both of those players among the goals so early in the season.
“We’re creating chances, which is great, and some of the movements to get on the end of the crosses and the timing of them have been impressive.
“It’s something we’ve looked at in training and for them to take it on board and put it into practice in matches is really pleasing.”
Captain Robert Briggs is expected to be available for selection on Saturday after making a quicker than expected recovery from a slight hamstring injury, with Joao Gomes the only long-term absentee among Shields’ ranks.
Kick-off at Wincham Park – which has a post code of CW9 6DA – is at 3pm and admission prices are £11 for adults, £8 for concessions, £6 for those aged 18 to 21 and £2 for under-18s.
Supporters can pay at the turnstiles, but tickets are also available in advance by clicking here.
Witton Albion scored two late goals to end South Shields’ four-match winning run in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division with a 2-1 victory at Mariners Park.
Sefton Gonzales’ brilliant strike on the stroke of half-time had put the Mariners on course to retain their six-point lead at the top of the division.
But goals in the 90th and 93rd minutes from the visitors ensured that Shields’ advantage was cut to three points as Albion did the double over their opponents.
Shields made one change to the side which started the 2-1 victory at Lancaster City a week earlier, with Blair Adams replacing Craig Baxter at left-back.
They started on the front foot and had a sight of goal as early as the second minute as Jason Gilchrist pounced on a loose ball before chipping an effort over from 20 yards.
The Mariners went close again as Jordan Hunter drove inside from the right and fired a fierce effort narrowly over the crossbar.
The home side were not at their fluent best but in the first half they always looked the more likely team to break the deadlock.
Gilchrist almost provided the breakthrough in the 21st minute when he was found on the edge of the box before fizzing a low effort just past the post via a deflection.
Other than that, there was little in the way of goalmouth action in the remainder of the first half until Shields took the lead in eye-catching fashion on 45 minutes.
Gonzales received the ball with his back to goal on the left of the box before turning and unleashing a blockbuster of a strike which kissed the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the goal.
It was a reward for some impressive territorial play from the Mariners and they had a bright start to the second half, too, with Robert Briggs denied by a save from Chris Renshaw before the goalkeeper also did well to beat away a powerful effort by Nathan Lowe.
Renshaw also had to be alert to tip an Arron Thompson shot over the bar after the Shields midfielder’s well-hit strike from the edge of the box looked set to find the roof of the net.
The hosts appeared to lose their way after the hour mark as Witton began to make their mark on the game.
Their first attempt at an equaliser saw Danny Mitchley fire an effort which Baxter – introduced as a half-time substitute in place of Adams – did well to block.
From the resulting corner, Josh Wardle was found unmarked but could only send his effort over the bar.
Although Witton looked dangerous, Shields will have expected to see the game out heading into the closing stages after largely restricting them to deeper possession.
Myles Boney superbly held onto a shot from distance from James Foley which swirled in the air but just as the Mariners will have been thinking about the final whistle, a series of set-pieces put them under pressure.
The equaliser arrived in the 90th minute as a corner from the left was recycled before being played back into the box, where substitute Michael Monaghan fired a tremendous volley past Boney.
Albion were the team with the momentum and when they won another corner three minutes into stoppage time, Shields were on the back foot again.
The pressure told as the ball was delivered from the right and headed down to another substitute, Kyle Sambor, who rifled it home to earn his side the three points.
The Mariners are now three points clear of Basford United at the top and take a short break from league action on Tuesday when they travel to Dunston in the Integro Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Baxter 46), Shaw (c), Brown, Turnbull, Thompson (Ross 78), Briggs, Gilchrist, Lowe, Gonzales (Mason 65). Subs not used: Verstraaten, Gillies.
Goal: Gonzales (45).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.