South Shields move three points clear with draw at Prescot Cables
South Shields dropped points for just the second time this season on Saturday '“ but their goalless draw at Prescot Cables took them three clear at the top of Evo-Stik North.
The Mariners came up against one of the league’s form sides at Volair Park.
Prescot had won their previous three games to move into third, including an impressive 3-1 victory over Scarborough Athletic.
Shields, though, looked the more likely winners on an afternoon of few chances.
Both teams did their best to deal with the extremely difficult pitch and weather conditions, but could not find a breakthrough.
The Mariners started brightly, with Craig Baxter dispossessing his opponent on the right channel early on before releasing Gavin Cogdon, who dragged an effort wide.
Clear-cut opportunities were few and far between, though, as both teams struggled to get their football flowing on a tough surface.
Prescot’s first sights of goal saw Baba Conte fire over from 12 yards and Jordan Wynne cut a shot wide after driving through the centre.
Shields’ best openings of the half were in the latter stages of it as they began to put the hosts under pressure.
Robert Briggs lifted an effort not far over from just outside the box on the left, Jamie Holmes had one deflected wide after a strong run from the right and Carl Finnigan curled a shot off target.
A golden opportunity arrived in the last minute of the half as Cogdon worked his way into an excellent position on the right before sending a teasing ball across the area for Holmes, who fired over from a good position.
Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell was tested for the first time a minute into the second half as Wynne hit an effort from long range which he managed to beat away.
The closest Shields came was in the 54th minute when a left-wing corner from Briggs was met by Finnigan at the near post, who saw his header come back off the post.
Finnigan had another good opportunity less than a minute later as he got on the end of a cross from Cogdon, but he was unable to find a way past home goalkeeper Ben Purdham.
With rain teeming down and the conditions becoming ever more treacherous, it became increasingly likely that neither team would be able to break the deadlock.
However, with 13 minutes left, it looked like Shields may have unlocked the door.
Cogdon was sent sprinting through on goal and with the striker about to pull the trigger, he was fouled on the edge of the box by Louis Coyne. The referee had no hesitation in showing him a red card.
The resulting free-kick from Briggs was deflected over by the wall, but even with a man advantage, it was a struggle for Shields to find a way past the resilient Cables defence.
The only chance of any note in the final stages fell to Cogdon, who controlled the ball just inside the box before directing a low effort which Purdham clung onto at the second attempt.
Overall, it is a point Shields may eventually come to look at as one gained as they strengthened their grip on top spot. They are back in action tomorrow when they host Stocksbridge Park Steels in the League Cup at Mariners Park.
In the league, Shields are three points clear of second-placed Bamber Bridge, with three games in hand.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Storey, Morse, Arca (c) (Stephenson 62), Pattison, Briggs, Cogdon, Finnigan, Holmes. Subs not used: Norton, Shaw, Richardson, Sullivan.