South Shields make it 29 in a row to move within five points of promotion

Michael Richardson wheels away after scoring the winner for South Shields on Saturday. Image by Peter Talbot.
Michael Richardson wheels away after scoring the winner for South Shields on Saturday. Image by Peter Talbot.

Michael Richardson’s second half header sealed another vital win for South Shields as they moved to within six points of Northern League Division One leaders North Shields on Saturday.

The Mariners took full advantage of North Shields’ 1-1 draw at lowly West Allotment Celtic on Friday with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bishop Auckland.

Barrie Smith tries to find a way through against Bishop Auckland. Image by Peter Talbot.

Barrie Smith tries to find a way through against Bishop Auckland. Image by Peter Talbot.

It extended the club record of consecutive wins to 29, while Shields still have three games in hand on the leaders, and are five points away from securing promotion.

The match was played in front of another four-figure crowd, despite torrential rain in the hours leading up to kick-off leading to many of the surrounding roads being flooded, or grid-locked.

Shields were on top from the outset, but were frustrated in front of goal.

The closest they came in the opening half-hour was when Jordan Blinco hit an effort inches past the post after being found by Alex Nicholson.

Andrew Stephenson had a goal controversially ruled out for offside after heading in a Robert Briggs cross, while two minutes before half-time, former Shields goalkeeper Scott Pocklington pulled off a stunning double stop.

He pushed away a Richardson free-kick and then leapt to his feet to acrobatically tip the rebound from Nicholson over the bar.

The Mariners were given a real scare five minutes into the second half when Stuart Thompson wriggled his way into a shooting position on the inside-right of the box before toe-poking a shot which went narrowly wide.

Shields got better the longer the second half went on, with Pocklington making a string of impressive saves, particularly from Gavin Cogdon.

Richardson was the next to go close as he brought down an Anthony Callaghan cross and then diverted the ball just wide with his left foot.

The Mariners continued to knock at the door, but this time the post thwarted them when Barrie Smith’s half volley from the edge of the box took a slight deflection and then came back off the upright.

Pocklington cleared it but Shields kept up the pressure, with Nicholson finding Stephenson on the right before he sent in an inviting cross which bounced in the six-yard box before being nodded in by Richardson.

The chances kept coming for the home side, with Cogdon again frustrated as he controlled a cut-back from Nicholson before hitting a low shot inches past the post.

Briggs went close twice as he saw a header tipped wide by Pocklington before shooting off target after being found by Richardson.

Smith also missed a good opportunity as he lashed a shot over on the inside-right of the box, and the second goal just would not come for Shields, with Pocklington denying Stephenson with his feet.

The next chance came the way of Cogdon after a glorious ball from Arca down the right put him through on goal, but as he dribbled into the box, he opted to shoot rather than square to Richardson, and sent the effort over.

Shields did not come under any serious pressure until the closing stages, when Bishops became increasingly direct with set pieces near the halfway line.

However, they came up against a defence in determined mood and Shields did not let them through as they held on for a clean sheet and three points.

The Mariners are now six points behind leaders North Shields in Northern League Division One, with three games in hand.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Shaw (c), Petrache, Briggs, Smith (Holden 90), Stephenson, Cogdon, Richardson (Phillips 71), Blinco (Arca 54). Subs not used: Jameson, Morse.

Goal: Richardson (63).

Attendance: 1,134.