Tadcaster Albion slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Evo-Stik Division One North title favourites South Shields at the i2i Stadium on Saturday.
Gavin Cogdon fired the league leaders ahead on the half-hour-mark and although the Brewers rallied after the break, Carl Finnigan made sure of the victory in the closing stages.
The game was always going to be an extremely tough test for Michael Morton’s men, despite them coming into the fixture on the back of a morale-boosting 5-0 success in their previous outing.
Morton intended to go with the same starting XI that dispatched Brighouse Town on New Year’s Day, but Pete Davidson was only fit enough for the substitutes’ bench so Aaron Hardy took his place.
Albion’s Tom Corner poked an effort wide early on, but it was Mariners who dominated the ball, pushing and probing throughout the opening exchanges.
With captain and former Sunderland ace Julio Arca dictating the tempo from the centre of midfield, Shields took full control and Taddy only remained on level terms after 20 minutes thanks to a sublime last-ditch challenge from skipper Andy Milne.
A minute later and Morton was forced to change his hand as Adam Baker dropped to the floor and couldn’t continue, opening the door for Conor Sellars to take the field.
Nevertheless, Shields continued to ramp up the pressure as they looked to bounce back from their New Year disappointment at the hands of Scarborough Athletic.
Albion were almost the architects of their own downfall as Corey Roper gave the ball away on the edge of his own box, leading to Finnigan being found, but he could only poke tamely at gloveman Michael Ingham.
The vast majority of the away team’s attacks started with right-back Alex Nicholson getting the ball and driving down the flank before feeding either Cogdon, Finnigan or ex-Newcastle United man Matty Pattison, who were left to create the magic in the final third.
The deadlock was broken in the 31st minute as the Mariners netted a goal to that their efforts warranted.
Hardy tried to cut out a cross-field switch, but after missing out the ball quickly found its way to Cogdon who drove into the box, cut inside Milne and clipped powerfully into the far corner.
The high-flyers didn’t let up and Pattison jinked inside Aiden Savory and fired just over the bar minutes later.
Taddy then had Ingham to thank for keeping them in the game seven minutes from the break.
Finnigan was found just a few yards out on an acute angle and was terrifically kept out by the Northern Irishman before Milne dug Cogdon’s follow-up header off the line.
With opportunities few and far between for the Brewers, Joe Pugh curled a free-kick harmlessly over from 27 yards out as the half drew to a close.
Albion came out in the second period seeming rejuvenated and revitalised, immediately getting on the ball more.
That said, Ingham was called into action again just five minutes into the half.
Pattison executed a lovely reverse ball in behind to Finnigan who couldn’t beat the home custodian as he stood tall and blocked shot.
A couple of minutes later and Morton was forced to make another alteration as left-back Lawrance Hunter pulled up and was replaced by Jason Mycoe.
Cogdon then jinked in and out before his blocked shot dropped to left-back Darren Lough whose sizzling strike was well held by Ingham.
The one moment of controversy in the match came on the hour-mark as Finnigan caught home centre-half Josh Barrett with a flailing arm.
This upset the Taddy players and their bench with Barrett suffering concussion and being forced off, a third enforced change.
A yellow card was the decision from the referee and Josh Greening came on in Barrett’s place with Savory filling in at the back.
As the pitch began to cut up due to the heavy rain that had fallen recently, Albion slowly started to grow in confidence, while the visitors slowly began to drop further and further backwards.
The Brewers failed to create any real chances of note, however, while at the other end Ingham was shining again as he somehow kept the deficit at one, throwing out a hand to tip over Dillon Morse’s close-range flick.
Shields were not to be denied for long though and they doubled their lead five minutes from time to make absolutely sure of the points.
A long ball caught the hosts out, allowing Jamie Holmes a clear run on goal, and although Ingham did outstandingly well to stop the substitute, Finnigan was able to fire in after Holmes squared the ball to him.
The Brewers huffed and puffed and continued to battl valiantly, but only recorded their first shot on target in the fourth minute of stoppage-time when Pugh danced between two defenders before forcing Liam Connell into a save.
Defeat leaves Albion 11th in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to struggling Skelmersdale United.