South Shields tighten grip on first place following win at Hyde United
Mackenzie Heaney's superb second half strike earned South Shields a huge three points on the road at Hyde United on Saturday.
Heaney notched the only goal of the game 10 minutes into the second half as the Northern Premier League leaders got the better of the third-placed side.
It was a solid and controlled performance from the Mariners as they responded to their midweek defeat against FC United of Manchester in excellent fashion.
Martin Smith, Ade Shokunbi and Jordy Mongoy were drafted into the starting line-up by Kevin Phillips and all played key roles in a tight encounter which was short of goalmouth action.
Shields were serene in the opening exchanges and could have had a penalty inside the first minute when Dylan Mottley-Henry went down under a challenge, but the appeals were waved away.
The first opportunity was a header from Michael Woods which was saved by Dan Atherton after an audacious effort from Heaney found its way to the midfielder.
The Mariners looked comfortable, but needed Myles Boney to produce an excellent save to his left as he stretched to divert a Tom Lorpendo strike away from goal.
Although chances to open the scoring were rare in the first half, the few chances which did arrive came Shields' way, with Smith's free-kick from 25 yards kept out by Atherton and Mottley-Henry's attempt from 20 yards drifting wide.
Hyde responded well at the start of the second half and pressurised their visitors within a minute of the restart as a ball was launched into the box and scrambled clear.
The Tigers continued in that vain until they were hit by a sucker punch by the Mariners.
Mongoy beat his man on the left before falling under a challenge but when Shields' penalty appeals were turned down, Mottley-Henry squared the ball for Heaney and he struck an excellent effort into the top corner from 15 yards.
Another decisive moment came less than two minutes later as Boney produced an outstanding fingertip save to divert Callum Spooner's deflected shot over the bar.
Although Hyde remained resilient, Shields had the better of the remaining minutes and had opportunities to stretch their lead.
Mottley-Henry hooked the ball over from a Heaney corner and substitute Lewis Alessandra forced Atherton into a sprawling save as the Mariners attempted to make the points safe.
Nerves jangled when the officials added five minutes of stoppage time, but Shields held firm to move 13 points clear at the top of the table.
Their opponents on Non-League Day next Saturday are second-placed Radcliffe Borough at 1st Cloud Arena in another match which could prove pivotal in the race for promotion.
Shields have six matches remaining and know they need a maximum of three wins to secure the championship and with it, the one automatic promotion spot.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Liddle, Broadbent, Smith, Heaney, Woods (Briggs 70), Mottley-Henry (Alessandra 79), Shokunbi, Mongoy (Osei 79). Subs not used: Gomes, Doherty
Goal: Heaney (55)
Attendance at Ewen Fields: 987