Advantage South Shields in Northern League title race – despite falling nine points behind

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South Shields’ bid for the Ebac Northern League Division One title was given a big boost last night – as leaders North Shields were held to a draw at West Allotment Celtic.

The Mariners trail North Shields by nine points but now have four games in hand on their cross-river rivals.

Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side take on Bishop Auckland at Mariners Park today and host Consett on Tuesday night, so they could cut the Robins’ advantage at the top to three points going into next Saturday’s all-ticket showdown at North Shields.

In dire need of points to boost their survival push at the wrong end of the table, West Allotment made life difficult throughout for North Shields, though the 1-1 draw means they are still seven points adrift of safety, with only four games to go.

Both sides had early half chances, but on 18 minutes North Shields took the lead, when Dean Holmes scored after latching onto a through ball and firing home.

In the second half, Dan Wilson hit the post after 47 minutes for the visitors and shortly after Curtis Coppen headed wide from a corner, as the Robins pressed hard for a second goal.

They also had an effort disallowed for offside.

However, on 61 minutes, the home side equalised, when John Pendlebury got the last touch on an off-target Michael Hall effort, levelling it up at 1-1.

North Shields threw on Gareth Bainbridge, Ryan Carr and Bobby Taylor in a bid to snatch a precious winner in the closing stages, but Celtic held out for their point.

South Shields will make it 30 wins in a row if they can beat Bishops and Consett at Mariners Park in the next four days before setting foot onto the Daren Persson Stadium for the eagerly-awaited crunch showdown with long-time leaders North Shields.