MATCH REPORT COURTESY OF southshieldsfc.co.uk
South Shields were backed by their highest crowd of the season so far as they battled to a 3-2 win over Mickleover Sports on Saturday.
Mickleover produced a gutsy display which belied their league position and took an early lead when Evan Garnett picked out the top corner.
Shields found their stride before half-time and equalised thanks to a Dillon Morse header before goals from Robert Briggs and Josh Gillies sealed the three points in the second half.
A large amount of young supporters were in attendance after the club reached out to the community in the week leading up to the game, and they contributed to a superb attendance just short of 1,750.
The Mariners have now won their last six games in all competitions.
They got off to an inauspicious start against a Mickleover side which came into the match sitting 18th in the table.
Mickleover began the game well, with former Derby County and Crawley Town man Pablo Mills sending an effort over from distance.
They took the lead soon after when Evan Garnett fired a stunning shot into the top corner via the post to stun the hosts.
Nathan Jarman went close to putting the visitors two ahead when he turned on the edge of the box before unleashing a shot which went just over.
Shields improved as the first half went on and were unfortunate not to draw level as a Blair Adams cross was met by a superb Gavin Cogdon header which goalkeeper Lewis King brilliantly tipped wide.
The Mariners got back on level terms just after the half-hour mark when Nathan Lowe dinked in a dangerous corner from the right which Morse directed into the top corner with a pinpoint header.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side kept up the pressure, with Carl Finnigan, Lee Mason and Cogdon all going close when they were denied by King.
Shields came out for the second half with renewed vigour and almost took the lead when Cogdon nicked the ball in the penalty area and laid it off to Finnigan, whose shot was blocked.
At the other end, Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell did brilliantly to tip an effort from Adam Prusa over the bar as Mickleover fired another warning as to how dangerous they were.
The Mariners heeded the warning as they began a spell of pressure which eventually paid off with the second goal.
Cogdon was denied by a last-ditch tackle, Finnigan blazed a big chance over and then was kept off the scoresheet by a fine block as the hosts were frustrated in front of goal.
The Mariners were then denied by the woodwork as Cogdon latched onto a ball over the top, held it up well and struck a low shot which agonisingly came back off the post before seeing a strong penalty appeal waved away.
Shields were given a golden opportunity to take the lead for the first time when referee Helen Conley awarded a penalty for a foul on Finnigan, and Briggs made no mistake from the spot as he sent King the wrong way.
Lowe struck a sweet free-kick not far wide, a fine effort from Briggs just cleared the crossbar and Gillies also hit a shot wide as the Mariners looked to put the game to bed.
They eventually appeared to have done so when a poor clearance fell to substitute Ben Harmison and he squared the ball to Gillies, who hammered it into the bottom of the net.
Mickleover did not give up, though, and immediately reduced the deficit back to one when Garnett raced onto a ball through the middle and beat Connell to score his second of the afternoon.
It was too late to launch a dramatic late comeback, though, and the Mariners saw the game out to register a vital three points.
WORDS: Daniel Prince.