South Shields 4 - 1 Clitheroe
Tough trip to the North East
In anticipation of playing the league leaders, Simon Haworth tweaked his formation to give young centre back, Michael Samson, his full league debut in a back 5 formation, and this paid real dividends throughout the game as Clitheroe came to terms with a very slick Shields side.
For once, it was Clitheroe first out of the blocks, and all bar 20 of the 1,750 crowd were silenced when from a Robbie Bromley corner, Brad Carroll expertly cushioned his header towards Alex Newby who expertly dinked the ball past the keeper.
Four minutes later, Kurt Willoughby forced his way past his marker and unleashed a tremendous left foot drive, forcing a great save. On 13 minutes, the Shields keeper inexplicably laid the ball to an unmarked Newby on the edge of the box. Panic ensued in the home defence, Newby was stunned by the gift and his shot was well saved by the keeper to atone for the original error.
To Shields’s credit, whilst this pressure was turned up, they still played their passing game and it was clear that they had a lot more to give. On 25 minutes, two headers sliced open the Blues’ defence and the final shot arrowed across the face of the goals. On 28 minutes, Chris Thompson bravely dived at the feet of an attacker to smother a driven cross.
Seven minutes later, a scuffed Shields’ cross took a deflection and almost went in, before on 37 minutes a burst down the right saw the Shields attacker hit the ball across the face of the goal and saw it go in off the post. The first half ended with more Shields pressure, but honours were even.
Clitheroe had the worst possible start to the second half and never fully recovered. On 48 minutes, from a tame shot cum cross from the right, Ryan Ellison and Thompson failed to deal with the gently bouncing ball and it limped into the goal unimpeded.
The wind was now in the North Easterners’ sails and defence splitting passes were the order of the day. On 55 minutes, a sublime through ball was converted at a canter. On 67 minutes, a dinked near post header from a corner saw the ball stabbed home from short range. Further pressure came, but the Blues held firm.
When the whistle blew, many sank to their knees in exhaustion, knowing they had probably played one of the best teams we have seen at this level.
Team : Chris Thompson, Robbie Bromley, Stephen Rigby, Ryan Ellison, Thomas Smyth, Michael Samson, Joe Mitchell (Oliver Crankshaw), Brad Carroll (c) (Ryan Cattermole), Kurt Willoughby, Alex Newby, Charlie Russell. Subs - Ryan Cattermole, Oliver Crankshaw. Not used - Adam Bolton, Ian Rowlands, Danny Eccles.