South Shields returned to winning ways in the Pitching In Northern Premier League as goals from Lewis Alessandra and Dylan Mottley-Henry helped the Mariners to a 2-1 victory over Belper Town.
Kevin Phillips’ side had been beaten in their three previous games across three different competitions, and patience was required against the Nailers at 1st Cloud Arena.
The deadlock was broken by Alessandra shortly after the hour mark and just six minutes later, Mottley-Henry grabbed the second.
Harry Middleton pulled one back from the penalty spot to set up the possibility of a nervy ending, but the home side saw it out to move to within five points of leaders Hyde United, who have played three more games.
Phillips made two changes to the team which lost 1-0 to Hyde United four days earlier, with Blair Adams and Robert Briggs brought into the starting line-up.
They almost went ahead after just more than a minute following some slick attacking play, but Michael Woods’ strike from 10 yards was tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Daniel Moore.
Alessandra fired narrowly over and a Mackenzie Heaney header dropped not far past the post as the home side maintained the early pressure, while a Robert Briggs free-kick flashed over the crossbar and Mottley-Henry had a shot saved.
There was a glorious chance in the 29th minute when Alessandra sent a superb ball across the face of goal, but Adams could only blast over from close range.
Belper slowly grew into the game and in the 36th minute had a real chance to make it 1-0 when Jake Gratton received the ball high up the pitch and went through one-on-one with Myles Boney, but the Shields goalkeeper won the battle and denied the away side that crucial opener.
The Mariners came out for the second half showing some signs of promise as they continued to search for a breakthrough.
Jordan Hunter had replaced Conor Newton at the break and Shields had an opening in the 57th minute when Woods picked up a loose ball and found his way into the box, but he snatched at his shot and dragged it wide.
Just four minutes later, the Mariners did find their goal as Hunter was played in down the right of the area by Briggs and fizzed a tremendous pass across goal to Alessandra, who chested home from close range.
Moore denied Briggs from the edge of the box but Shields did not have to wait too long for number two, with Martin Smith delivering a teasing cross and Mottley-Henry helping it on its way past Moore with a delicate header.
Belper remained spirited and almost immediately halved the deficit, with Middleton slotting home from the spot after the officials ruled Gratton had been fouled in the area.
Shields had most of the play in the remainder of the game and had two decent chances to stretch their advantage, but Alessandra and Joao Gomes both saw shots saved by Moore.
The Mariners saw it out to climb to seventh in the table ahead of a short break from league action, with a young team expected to travel to Whickham in the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday.
Shields are back at 1st Cloud Arena in the league next Saturday when they take on Stafford Rangers.
South Shields: Boney, Newton (Hunter 46), Adams, Liddle, Broadbent (Morse 75), Smith, Heaney, Woods (Gomes 78), Alessandra, Briggs, Mottley-Henry. Subs not used: Doherty, Russ.
Goals: Alessandra (61), Mottley-Henry (67).
Belper Town: Moore, B. Middleton, Rhodes, H Middleton, Wilson, Jordan, Gratton, Tempest (Reaney 70), Tuton, Cartwright, Litchfield (Mangham 70). Subs not used: Woodcock, Hebda, Carvell.
Goal: H Middleton (pen 69).
Image: Kev Wilson.