South Shields United 2 Wallington 1 Northern Alliance Premier Division
WALLINGTON were left to rue an impressive opening 45 minutes that eventually led to nothing against a handy South Shields outfit.
The returning Jordan Nellis had deservedly put The Greens 1-0 up halfway through the first half only for it be cancelled out and added to by a duo of avoidable goals either side of half-time.
Work overtime, weddings and weary groins were the reasons behind three changes to the team that outclassed North Shields two weeks ago.
Nellis was a straight replacement for Peter Southern while Ben Fenwick’s impressive performance against North Shields saw him regain his right-midfield birth. At the back, Nick McClughin’s slight injury picked up in that game saw the first start of the season for Trevor Baston at right-full-back.
The game started with Wallington allowing their hosts to have control of the ball before springing quickly, with Sam Walton, Kyle Reardon and Nellis linking up well.
The three-four-three system adopted by the hosts was playing perfectly into the hands of Fenwick and especially Walton on the wings who were constantly exposing the space afforded to them.
Alex Slack had the unenviable task of marking Shields’ notoriously rapid winger but the captain did not let that nor the change of position faze him as he rendered him anonymous for the first half. On the opposite side, after an initial de-rusting period of 20 minutes Baston also put in an accomplished performance against another tricky winger.
Once again, Tom Macpherson and Al Sorrie were in fine form at the back and it was a number of their insightful interceptions that ignited much of the Greens early promise.
Nellis’ constant movement was proving a nightmare for the Shields back-line as well as the young linesman, who caught him offside on a few occasions. He did manage to spring the trap though and his neat pull-back was just taken off Reardon’s toe for a corner.
Walton was basking in endless joy on the left and after cutting inside twice, only his radar was letting him down as his shots sailed wide of the near-post. Eventually, though the breakthrough came at the end of a terrific team move involving five players. Slack’s throw in found Walton’s feet who played a swift one-two with Reardon before lofting a pass over the defence into the path of Fenwick coming across from his right-wing position.
With the ball just a touch heavy, Fenwick showed great improvisation and kept it alive by hooking it back over his head. Justin Millican was arriving but he unselfishly left it for the better-placed Nellis, who stroked it under the keeper for his seventh of the season. Almost immediately, Shields reverted to four at the back in an attempt to stem the attacking flow of the away side, with relative early success.
In the attacking third, a Shields backlash was expected but never really materialised as the back four guarded by Millican and Mark Jewitt were working tirelessly to close down space and force the Shields front players into mistakes.
However, just as it has been for Wallington all season, one crazy moment and, out of nowhere, the home side were level pegging once again.
Macpherson, under pressure in his own box, could only hook the ball high into the air. As the ball descended directly underneath the crossbar Chris Straker and a Shields striker both jumped for the ball without getting anywhere near it. Although it seemed Straker had been impeded, the ball bounced into the roof of the net and in doing so wiping out Nellis’ early strike.
The half closed with The Greens feeling slightly aggrieved at the score, not only because of the acrimonious circumstances surrounding the equaliser but because of a great chance to restore their lead squandered on the stroke of half-time.
Following Shields’ effective tactical switch, Fenwick and Walton tried their luck by switching flanks for the remaining 10 minutes of the half, which once again resulted in the latter finding himself with an opportunity to score.
Reardon picked up the ball just inside the Shields half and played a crossfield ball just beyond the left full-back into Walton’s path. The young lads’ first touch was predictably etched in quality, which set him up nicely for a fierce drive which the Shields keeper did superbly to claw away at the near-post.
Despite emerging from a changing room of optimism, the second half saw a stagnated Wallington performance pitted against a much livelier and rejuvenated home side.
Possibly buoyed by a scoreline that had not reflected the game, Shields remained on the front foot for the opening 20 minutes of the half, a time in which they scored the crucial winning goal.
A long ball found their pacey winger, who earned a bit of luck by managing to bobble the ball past a determined Sorrie. After Straker appeared to close the chance down, the Shields front-man needed no luck at all to round the keeper and stroke the ball past a hapless Macpherson on the line for a wonderful individual goal.
As Wallington huffed and puffed, the team in red and black could have had more as they first hit the post through a long-range effort and then had a penalty somewhat harshly overturned for offside when it appeared the ball had been squared.
Late changes of John Paxton and Stu Foreman were introduced to add a bit more of an attacking threat but even they could not help the team recapture their bright start.
The Greens never stopped running but a wayward Nellis strike was the closest they came as the home side held on for a comfortable and vital win.