South Shields suffered a disappointing defeat at Hednesford Town on Saturday despite an attempted second half fightback.
The Mariners found themselves with much to do after a difficult opening to the game which saw Dan Sweeney strike twice within the opening 20 minutes for the hosts.
Lee Mason pulled one back midway through the second half but Shields were unable to find an equaliser as they slipped to seventh in the Evo-Stik Premier Division table.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side were looking to build on their excellent 5-0 win over Grantham Town in their previous outing, and started brightly at Keys Park.
Mason let fly from distance within the first two minutes, and only a sprawling save from home goalkeeper Sheridon Martinez denied him.
The early positivity was soon brought to an end, though, when Hednesford took the lead in the fifth minute.
Matt Curley clipped in a cross from the right and Reece King’s back-header bounced into a dangerous area, where Dan Sweeney collected the ball and prodded it over the line, despite the best efforts of Shields defender Gary Brown.
The Mariners’ response was good, with David Foley and Robert Briggs both having attempts at goal as they pushed for an equaliser.
However, the crucial second goal went the way of the hosts in the 20th minute.
Joe Fitzpatrick fizzed in a dangerous corner from the right and a fortuitous bounce sent the ball to Sweeney, whose effort was too powerful for Mason to stop on the line.
Shields were bidding to avoid a fifth defeat from seven away games in the league, and had it all to do in the final 70 minutes.
Hednesford did an effective job of maintaining their two-goal lead in the remainder of the first half, with the Mariners’ only real chance coming when Foley sliced wide after a ball over the top from Dillon Morse.
It could have been 3-0 before half-time when Dan Cockerline was played in on goal, but Liam Connell just got to the ball before him to keep him at bay.
Shields’ performance improved in the second half and they almost pulled one back when Foley fizzed an effort across goal from the left which went just past the post.
The Mariners went agonsingly close in the 66th minute as a Briggs free-kick from 20 yards sailed inches wide, but they did not have to wait much longer to get on the scoresheet.
Just two minutes later, Shields did get their goal as Mason touched the ball onto his right foot on the inside-left of the box before firing a terrific effort past Martinez in the Hednesford goal.
The Mariners were unable to generate any real momentum in their search for an equaliser, though, despite the best efforts of players including substitutes Carl Finnigan, Ben Harmison and Daniel Wright.
They will aim to bounce back on Tuesday when they travel to Hyde United in another league match.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Turnbull (Wright 78), Morse, Brown, Mouanda, Briggs (c), Gillies (Harmison 59), Mason, Foley (Finnigan 52). Subs not used: Hunter, Lough.
Goal: Mason (68).