Sunderland AFC loanee fires South Shields top of NPL Premier Division
South Shields moved to the top of the NPL Premier Division with an impressive 2-0 win over Basford United at Mariners Park on Saturday.
Goals in each half from Jordan Hunter and Josh Gillies were enough to see their Mariners leapfrog five teams – including their opponents – to take their place at the summit.
It was a confident display from Shields in front of their highest crowd of the season to date and sets them up nicely for Tuesday’s game against Gainsborough Trinity at Mariners Park.
The hosts again deployed captain Jon Shaw in a striking role alongside Jordan Annear, who was making his first league start for the club.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton will have been delighted with the way their side opened the game as they made their intentions known from the first whistle.
Hunter – whose loan from Sunderland was extended by a further 28 days earlier in the week – was at the heart of much of their brightest play with impressive surges forward from right-back, and he almost created the opening goal six minutes in when his low cross almost found Shaw, but a defender just got there first.
Shaw went even closer when Craig Baxter delivered a ball from the left which he directed goalwards with his head, but goalkeeper Kieran Preston tipped his effort away.
Goalkeeper Myles Boney produced a strong performance from the Mariners and he was alert to push a free-kick from 25 yards by Ryan Wilson wide after the left-back tried to catch him out at his near post.
To fall behind at that stage would have been extremely harsh on Shields, who found the breakthrough themselves after 15 minutes.
Adam Thurston and Gillies combined to sweep the ball across to Hunter on the right of the box and he cut the ball onto his left foot before firing a low effort which took a slight deflection and squirmed under the body of Preston as the right-back registered his first goal for the Mariners.
Basford had a decent chance to level 10 minutes before half-time as Wilson got in down the left and pulled the ball back to Jack Thomas, but he hooked over from a good position.
Shields pressed ahead after that as they searched for a second and it looked like they would get it when Annear powered through on the right of the area, but his scooped ball across the area was just ahead of Shaw.
The Mariners were frustrated again as a Blair Adams cross from the left was sent back across goal by Shaw to Thurston, and he fired the ball against the crossbar as the visitors survived again.
Six minutes into the second half, though, they were breached for a second time.
More enterprising play by Hunter on the right saw him skip past Wilson before sending a low cross into the feet of Annear, whose effort was parried by Preston. The ball broke to the advancing Gillies, who tucked it home from close range for his second goal of the season.
Hunter had visions of another goal when he hit the target from 20 yards soon after, but Preston was equal to his effort. That save came moments after a big penalty appeal following a challenge on Adams was waved away.
Basford put pressure on their hosts in the final half-hour as they tried to find a way back into the game, with Robert Briggs having to block well from Liam Bateman to keep Shields’ lead at two.
Boney then produced a tremendous double save from Matthew Thornhill, first showing superb reactions to stop an effort with his feet before picking himself up to close the angle and push the rebound from the same player wide.
From the resulting corner, another huge chance went begging for the visitors as James Reid’s corner found the head of an unmarked Nat Watson six yards out, but he directed the ball just past the post.
That was as close as Basford got, although Dillon Morse did need to produce a fine block with three minutes remaining to deny Watson.
Shields could have made it three as the clock ticked beyond 90 minutes as Adams forced his way through on the left to get a sight of goal, but he fired narrowly over.
The Mariners held firm to record another clean sheet, though, as they moved to the top of the early league table.
They will hope to stay there when they host Gainsborough Trinity on Tuesday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Briggs, Morse, Brown, Thurston (Turnbull 62), Baxter, Annear (Mason 70), Gillies (Alli 90+1), Shaw (c). Subs not used: Wokoma, Charlton.
Goals: Hunter (15), Gillies (51).