South Shields 2 Morpeth Town 0: Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson ensure bragging rights in front of huge 2,125-strong crowd
Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson ensured South Shields avoided a fifth game without a win and claimed the local bragging rights against North East rivals Morpeth Town.
After a largely subdued opening 45 minutes, midfielder Lowe showed the first moment of real quality when he curled a spectacular 20-yard strike beyond Morpeth goalkeeper Dan Lowson.
And Graham Fenton’s men secured the win when substitute Sam Hodgson came off the bench to fire a low drive past the Highwaymen number one with just eight minutes remaining.
The Highwaymen arrived at the 1st Cloud Arena looking to extend their unbeaten run under caretaker manager Craig Lynch to a seventh game in all competitions.
However, the former Sunderland forward had to contend with several notable absentees including former Hartlepool United midfielder Ryan Donaldson and experienced strikers Carl Finnigan and Liam Henderson.
With those absences in mind, perhaps it should not have been a surprise that Lynch’s side opted to try and contain the Mariners throughout the first-half.
South Shields enjoyed the bulk of possession without really creating anything of note during a half punctuated by niggling fouls and scrappy periods of play.
The vast majority of the impressive 2,125 supporters inside the 1st Cloud Arena were found wanting when it came to real quality - but that all changed when Lowe opened the scoring as the hour-mark approached.
After the two sides had exchanged chances with Dillon Morse heading wide for the Mariners and Ben Ramsey firing across goal for the visitors, Lowe finally broke the deadlock with a strike of the highest calibre.
On-loan full-back Dan Martin was the creator as his touch inside found Lowe 20 yards from goal and he curled a spectacular first-time effort beyond Lowson and inside his far post.
Chances had been few and far-between for Morpeth but they really should have got back on level-terms as the game made its way into its final quarter.
Ben Sayer produced an intricate pass to release Ramsey down the right-hand side and the youngster almost took advantage of the hesitancy of Mariners keeper Myles Boney by looping a shot into an empty net after the former Blackpool stopper had rushed from his line.
But with Boney stranded on the edge of his area, Ramsey’s effort crashed into the side-netting, much to relief of the Mariners faithful.
Substitute Sam Hodgson made sure his side made the most of that let-off when he doubled their lead less than 10 minutes after he replaced the injured Blair Adams.
The hold-up play of Darius Osei proved instrumental, and despite seeming to retain possession for too long and allow the visitors defence to get back in position, the forward found Hodgson on the edge of the area.
The academy product took a touch to calm himself, before arrowing a low drive across Lowson and into the bottom corner of his net.
That was enough to kill off any hopes Morpeth had of salvaging a point and ensured South Shields head into Saturday’s top of the table clash at Matlock Town in a more positive frame of mind.
South Shields: Boney, Martin, Adams (Hodgson), Shaw, Morse, Ross, Tee (Bodenham), Briggs, Osei, Lowe (McGowan), Kempster Subs: Rossiter, Stead
Morpeth Town: Lowson, Walton, Reid (Foalle), Sayer, Henderson, Morris, Ramsey, Noble, Johnson, Hodgson (Taylor), Phillips Subs: Anderson, Geliher, Williams
Reaction from the South Shields camp
Jon Shaw believes South Shields had to “stand up and be counted” in their 2-0 derby win against Morpeth Town.
The Mariners went into the eagerly-anticipated clash looking to end a run of four games without a win after a recent dip in form.
Goals from Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson ensured The Mariners claimed the points and gave them the best possible preparation for Saturday’s visit to top of the table Matlock Town.
Shaw admitted some onlookers would have expected the in-form Highwaymen to upset the odds at the 1st Cloud Arena - but praised the Mariners players for a hard-working display.
He told The Gazette: “The game is always big against Morpeth and so it should be, it’s a great rivalry and it’s a great derby to have.
“We put in half a decent performance against Nantwich, but we couldn’t take the game.
“We were really poor for 45 against Bamber Bridge and couldn’t pull back their half-time lead.
“We were happy with the performance against Basford on Saturday, but when you’re on a bit of a run and not scoring goals, those things can happen.
“It was hyped up a bit today because of those results, you could see it on social media and some people maybe thought we would get beat tonight.
“It’s understandable because of the run each side was on, so we had to stand up and be counted - and every player did that for us.”
Shaw also paid tribute to both goalscorers and revealed his delight that Lowe and Hodgson had made a significant impact in such a big game.
Reaction from the Morpeth Town camp
Morpeth Town caretaker manager Craig Lynch urged his side to move on from their derby defeat against South Shields.
A depleted Highwaymen side missing first-team regulars like Stephen Forster, Ryan Donaldson and Liam Henderson frustrated the Mariners throughout a disjointed first-half.
Their resistance was finally broken by a stunning long-range effort from Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson’s late strike and that left Lynch to focus his attention on bouncing back in great style this weekend.
The former Sunderland forward will take his side to National League North club York City as Morpeth look to reach the FA Cup first round for the first time in their history.
“It’s fact, we had nine missing and we had lads on the bench that were not fully fit,” he explained.
“It’s not an excuse, I won’t use it as an excuse, but it made an already difficult game even more tough for us."