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.
South Shields welcome Witton Albion to Mariners Park on Saturday as they bid to strengthen their six-point lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
The Mariners have won their last four league matches, including a 2-1 victory at second-placed Lancaster City last Saturday.
As the season reaches its business end, joint manager Lee Picton feels the club’s supporters could make a huge difference heading into the final 19 fixtures.
He has called on the fans to create another atmosphere to remember against Witton.
He said: “Myself and Graham (Fenton) will be sending the players onto the pitch with the aim of trying to entertain our fans with a combination of full commitment and positive attacking football.
“We know the kind of support the fans will give the players when we get that combination right and the atmosphere that is created at Mariners Park at times is absolutely incredible.
“The season is really starting to hot up now and we all have to stick together and get behind each other to the point where we become an unstoppable force towards our objective of winning promotion.
“The club’s promotion of free entry for all Under-16s will hopefully boost our numbers even further and provide us with an opportunity to reach potentially a new audience.
“Hopefully we can put on the kind of performance that will lead to those youngsters wanting to come back and become regular fans of the club.”
One of Shields’ four defeats in the league so far this season came at Witton in October.
Albion now lie 11th in the table and Picton knows the danger they possess.
He added: “Witton were the side which ended our eight-match winning run earlier this season and we can’t afford an ounce of complacency in this game.
“Their defensive record is one of the strongest in the league and they will undoubtedly make it tough for us to break them down.
“We have to be massively on the front foot both in possession and out of possession to try to force our own openings and also mistakes from them to ensure the right result.”
Shields hope to welcome back Dillon Morse after he missed recent games with a back injury, while Wouter Verstraaten is also available again after being cup-tied for the midweek Durham Challenge Cup tie against Stockton Town.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission prices – which can be paid at the turnstiles – are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and free for Under-16s. Discounts are available before midnight on Friday by clicking here.
Meanwhile, supporters who bought tickets for the Mickleover Sports game on January 11 can bring their tickets to the turnstiles before 1.30pm on Saturday to gain half-price entry to this match.
The usual Happy Hours will operate between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, and from 5pm to 6pm. The turnstiles open at 12.30pm.
Witton Albion are the visitors to Mariners Park on Saturday in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
Here’s a closer look into our latest opponents.
Home Ground: Wincham Park (since 1989)
Fun Fact: Witton Albion’s list of former players include popular Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop, who turned out for the club in the 1980s.
What’s their story?
Witton Albion were formed in 1887 and first entered the FA Cup in 1907, reaching the first round proper for the first time in 1948.
Having participated in many local leagues during their early history the club became founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1920.
They won the championship on three occasions, the highlight being a league and cup double in 1954.
Albion earned promotion to the Northern Premier League in 1979 and subsequently moved to their current home Wincham Park a decade later.
They couldn’t have wished for a better first season at Wincham Park, earning promotion to the Conference in 1990 after winning the title by 16 points.
Having started the decade on the front foot Witton ended the 90s back in the Northern Premier League after being relegated in 1994 and 1997.
The 2006-07 season saw Albion miss out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season on goal difference. They subsequently lost the play-off final against Telford United and were thus denied promotion back to the Conference North.
They missed out on promotion again in 2008. After leading the table since November, at one stage by 14 points, they lost the lead to Fleetwood Town in mid-April. They went on to lose to Buxton in the play-offs and the following season they were relegated to the Northern Premier League First Division South.
Witton entered the 2009–10 season with high hopes of promotion. However, a poor end to the season saw them finish out of play-off contention. League restructuring saw the club relocated to Northern Premier League First Division North and they were promoted to the Premier Division in 2012.
An impressive 2012-13 season saw Witton finish fourth in the league, making the play-offs. A 3-1 semi-final defeat to FC United of Manchester ended their promotion hopes.
The 2013-14 campaign was tougher, with Albion finishing 16th and narrowly escaping relegation.
Albion were relegated on the last day of the 2014-15 season with a 22nd place finish.
Current manager Carl MaCauley took over four months later after a poor start to the campaign.
Albion are currently in 11th position with nine wins and 34 points from 25 games, including a 3-1 success over the Mariners in October.
Manager: Carl Macauley
Keep an eye on: Danny McKenna – The explosive right winger is top scorer for the Albion this season with six goals.
The squad: Ryan Neild, Chris Renshaw, Adam Anson, Isaac Baldwin, Nick Ryan, James Short, Josh Wardle, Will Booth, James Foley, Cesaire Lingouba, Danny McKenna, Michael Monaghan, Tom Owens, Billy Smart, Will Jones, Danny Mitchley, Kyle Sambor.