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Match Report: South Shields 3-2 Nantwich Town

South Shields claimed a vital three points in the Pitching In Northern Premier League title race with a 3-2 win over Nantwich Town at 1st Cloud Arena.

The Mariners produced an excellent display to take the points, with Robert Briggs' header added to by second half goals from Dylan Mottley-Henry and Lewis Alessandra.

Nantwich scored two penalties in the closing stages but they were unable to prevent the Shields victory, which moved Kevin Phillips' side eight points clear at the top heading into their final three games of the season.

Shields went in search of early goals and forced goalkeeper Tom Booth into a smart save within the first two minutes when Briggs broke down the right of the area and struck a low effort.

They went closer still with another attack down the right as Alessandra stole the ball in the area and pulled it back to Briggs, who hit it inches past the post.

The Mariners' impressive start continued and Alessandra looked set to put them in front when he was played through, but Booth stuck out a foot to keep out his angled drive.

A number of stoppages hampered Shields' momentum until Briggs headed them in front.

He was picked out by a superb Martin Smith delivery from the right and nodded the ball expertly into the corner of the net as he scored for the 88th time in Shields colours.

The Mariners were fired a warning four minutes before half-time when Connor Evans beat Myles Boney to the ball and tried to square for a team-mate to tap into an open goal, but a vital interception by Gary Liddle saved the hosts.

Shields started the second half well and earned a corner when Conor Newton - introduced as a first half substitute on his return to action - burst forward and saw his shot deflected to Briggs, whose strike from 20 yards was deflected over.

Mackenzie Heaney's set-piece delivery caused havoc and after Booth was unable to deal with it, the ball dropped to Mottley-Henry and he prodded home from close range while on the floor.

Shields were playing with real confidence and the attacks kept coming, with a number of blocks and deflections denying them a third until Alessandra struck with 20 minutes left.

His goal came at the end of a flowing move as Jordan Hunter was played in down the right of the area and his fierce cross was palmed by Booth to Alessandra, who made no mistake from 12 yards with a fine finish.

The visitors almost immediately pulled one back when Byron Harrison sent Boney the wrong way from the spot after a penalty was awarded for a foul.

Nantwich struck the bar on 81 minutes when a cross from the right hung in the air, while at the other end, Heaney lifted a free-kick over as Shields aimed to make the points safe.

A tremendous, acrobatic goal-line clearance from Tom Broadbent and a Boney save from Cooke with a minute left kept the Mariners two goals in front.

Harrison scored a second penalty with what proved to be the last kick of the game deep into stoppage time, but Shields had done enough to win maximum points.

They head to Whitby Town on Monday knowing another victory would seal the title and with it, promotion to National League North.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c) (Doherty 83), Liddle, Broadbent, Smith, Heaney, Shokunbi (Newton 23), Alessandra (Osei 74), Briggs, Mottley-Henry. Subs not used: Mongoy, Morse.

Goals: Briggs (28), Mottley-Henry (49), Alessandra (70).

Attendance: 2,764.

Image: Kev Wilson.

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