GRAHAM Fenton, South Shields’ co-manager, admitted Witton Albion forced his players to dig deep for a victory at Wincham Park.

The Mariners closed to within three points of the Northern Premier League’s summit after extending an unbeaten run to 11 matches thanks to Lee Mason’s decisive goal.

However they had to resist pressure from Carl Macauley’s men in the second-half while they protected an interval advantage.

“We had to show real grit and determination,” Fenton told Mariners TV.

“Witton obviously have a game-plan and they’re good at executing it; they’re direct and they get the ball from back to front quickly to cause you problems.

“However I felt the lads at the back dealt with that threat exceptionally well.”

The visitors had demonstrated their title credentials during an impressive showing in the opening period that might have yielded more than a single strike.

Mason stayed calm when Nathan Lowe’s cross from the left was deflected into his path by a defender, stroking the ball out of goalkeeper Greg Hall’s reach.

Fenton said: “We played some good stuff first-half and were right up to our highest levels.

“We created three or four good opportunities and that was pleasing in terms of us showing real quality on a difficult surface.

“When we went in at half-time we didn’t go overboard with praise because the job was only half-done at that point.

“The lads had put in a shift and done their jobs well.

“I’m really proud of what they then did to make sure we can enjoy a magnificent away win.”

South Shields, conquerors of Witton on the opening day of the campaign, remain fourth in the Premier Division table.

However they narrowed a gap to all of the sides above them.

“We’ll have to wait and see what others do,” said Fenton.

“But with the form the lads are showing, with the confidence and togetherness they have, it will take a good team to beat us.”