Whitby Town 2-1 South Shields: Mariners stay top after tight defeat
South Shields missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division after losing a tight game at Whitby Town on Boxing Day.
On a day when most other results went their way, the Mariners were unable to capitalise at the Turnbull Stadium.
They went a goal behind in the fifth minute and when the Seasiders doubled their lead midway through the second half, Shields had something of a mountain to climb.
They showed good spirit to pull a goal back with five minutes left through a Dillon Morse header and they had some decent opportunities to claim a point, but were unable to beat Whitby goalkeeper Shane Bland for a second time.
The teams had to deal with a difficult pitch which made even the shortest of passes tough, and it was the hosts who adapted to the conditions quickest.
They almost took the lead in the second minute as Paul Blackett latched onto a loose ball in the box, but Ross Coombe did well to deny him.
Whitby did open the scoring soon after as Blackett raced onto a pass through the centre and slotted past Coombe.
Blackett proved to be a constant danger and he went close again when he turned on the edge of the box before drawing another save from Coombe.
It was a difficult period for the Mariners and they survived another scare as Jordan Hunter brilliantly headed off the line to deny Daniel Rowe.
Shields eventually found their feet and three good opportunities fell the way of Jason Gilchrist before half-time.
The first saw him drill an effort at Bland and the second saw him again denied by the goalkeeper, who was alert to catch his chipped shot.
Another opportunity came Gilchrist’s way as he was played in behind on the right of the box and drilled a ball across which ricocheted against two defenders before being clutched by Bland before it crossed the line.
At the other end, Kieran Charlton cleared off the line from Rowe to keep the deficit at one.
Shields had a strong start to the second half and almost levelled as Gilchrist fired a low effort which was brilliantly saved by the foot of Bland.
The hosts doubled their lead against the run of play, though, as a free-kick from the right by Jake Hackett fell the way of Alex White and he rifled the ball into the roof of the net.
In the closing stages, the Mariners put Whitby under pressure and after substitute Sam Hodgson was denied by Bland, they pulled a goal back as Morse nodded in a corner from Nathan Lowe.
Captain Jon Shaw had a golden chance to equalise less than a minute later as he was played in on the left of the area, but he fired wide.
Lowe, Gilchrist and Adam Thurston all had further efforts as the game neared its conclusion but Whitby saw it out to claim maximum points.
Shields will hope to return to winning ways when they take on Scarborough Athletic at Mariners Park on New Year’s Day.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Coombe, Hunter, Charlton (Thurston 52), Shaw (c), Morse, Briggs, Thompson, Baxter, Gilchrist, Jenkins (Lowe 52), Mason (Hodgson 70). Subs not used: Errington, Guy.
Goal: Morse (84).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.