Willington 2-1 South Shields
By Daniel Prince
South Shields suffered a narrow 2-1 loss at Willington on Saturday as they got their Ebac Northern League Division Two campaign under way.
Willington took the three points thanks to a brace by Liam Whitworth, with captain Barrie Smith grabbing the only goal for Shields on the stroke of half-time.
However, it was the home side who took the lead on 16 minutes.
Shields felt there had been a foul on Lee Maitland in the build-up, but Whitworth picked up the loose ball before firing a 25-yard effort into the roof of the net.
The Mariners protested in vain for a free-kick, but Whitworth took advantage of the situation to smash Willington in front.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the remainder of the first half, although Whitworth did drag another shot wide just three minutes after scoring.
Smith had a half-volley at the other end headed away for a corner, and the shot from the Mariners skipper looked to be heading powerfully into the net.
The game sparked into life in stoppage time after a period of relative inactivity.
First, Shields goalkeeper Brett Wilson did brilliantly to keep the score at 1-0 heading into half-time.
A free-kick from the right was headed on into the path of Reece Marshall, and he looked certain to score with a point blank header.
However, Wilson reacted superbly to tip the ball wide, and Shields immediately reaped the benefits of that save.
They went up the other end, and when David Molloy was bundled over on the inside left of the box, the referee pointed to the spot.
Smith stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way five minutes into added time, and the 1-1 scoreline at half-time fairly reflected the way the game had gone.
Feasey went close to giving the Mariners the lead 18 minutes into the second half, but he curled his central free-kick from just outside the box not far over.
Substitute Barry Marshall saw a flicked header easily saved by Willington goalkeeper Stephen Robinson, before the home side restored their advantage on 68 minutes.
A cross from the right fell to Whitworth at the back post, and his downward header bounced in front of Wilson before nestling in the net.
The Shields goalkeeper will have felt he should have done better, but Whitworth – the hosts’ most lively player – was not complaining.
The Mariners chased an equaliser for the rest of the game, but struggled to make a serious chance in front of goal.
Both teams had half chances, but nothing of true note.
The last real opportunity for Shields came with a minute of normal time remaining, but after Colin White – who was by this point being used as a striker – laid the ball off to Maitland, the midfielder’s 20-yard effort went well over the bar.
The Mariners continued to huff and puff, and put the Willington back line under some pressure with decent deliveries into the box, but the home side saw the game out to record an opening day victory.
For Jon King’s men, they travel to Ryhope CW on Tuesday as they look to pick up their first points of the new season. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
WILLINGTON: Robinson, Gibson, Hillary, Lazonby, Howe, Seymour, Hansom (Bains 76), Comby (Joyce 67), Marshall, White (Cairns 46), Whitworth. Subs not used: Patton, Ward.
Goals: Whitworth (16, 68).
SOUTH SHIELDS: Wilson, Locke, Feasey, Burn, White, Maitland, Houshby (Marshall 57), Smith (c), Ramsey (Halliday 61), Molloy, Renton (Stephenson 69). Subs not used: Fraser, Salim.
Goal: Smith (pen 45+5).