South Shields were presented with the Evo-Stik North Division trophy after completing another successful season with a 2-1 win over Colne on Saturday.
A party atmosphere greeted the teams as more than 2,100 fans packed into Mariners Park to celebrate Shields’ latest achievement.
They saw the Mariners sign off with a hard-fought victory thanks to a quickfire double from Lee Mason and Carl Finnigan in the first half, with Waqas Azam’s reply not enough to keep Colne’s play-off hopes alive.
Captain Julio Arca was presented with the league trophy after the game by Sarah Bartram, from league sponsors Evo-Stik, and Laura Drew, from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, as the celebrations truly started.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s Mariners ended the campaign on 103 points thanks to their final-day victory.
Colne were hoping to play the role of party poopers and did push Shields all the way but, despite having relatively little to play for, the Mariners again showed the determination required to win maximum points.
They were not firing on all cylinders from the start, though, and the first opportunities fell the way of the visitors, with Matthew Morgan sending a half-volley wide and the dangerous Alex Curran seeing a drive pushed away by Liam Connell.
After the half-hour mark, Shields clicked into gear and almost took the lead when Lee Mason’s effort was cleared off the line by Christopher Lynch, who somehow picked himself up to also keep out a goalbound effort from Craig Baxter.
The ball was soon in the net, though, as Dillon Morse headed a Robert Briggs corner towards goal and Mason hooked it in to continue his fine run of form.
Carl Finnigan delivered a hammer blow to Colne’s play-off hopes less than two minutes later when, after being found by Michael Richardson, he brought the ball onto his right foot and hammered it home to double the Mariners’ advantage.
Graeme Armstrong headed a decent chance over before Colne found a way back into it when Waqas Azam’s effort from the edge of the box squirmed through the hands of Connell.
They pushed for a vital equaliser in the second half, with Azam firing into the side netting, while at the other end, Mason curled one just wide and Shields had a number of other attempts to increase their advantage.
Colne kept the game alive and their hope was rekindled six minutes before the end when Shields left-back Matty Pattison was shown a red card for two quickfire bookings.
They had some opportunities, with Curran having a shot saved by Connell and Daniel Wilkins denied by an impressive block from Baxter.
Connell saved from Curran in Colne’s best chance as Shields saw the game out. Another season of success was over.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Smith 61), Richardson, Briggs, Armstrong (Sullivan 51), Finnigan, Mason (Holmes 69). Subs not used: Storey, Juul.
Goals: Mason (33), Finnigan (35).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The Evo-Stik North Division trophy will be presented to South Shields after their match against Colne at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The Mariners will bring the curtain down on another successful season against the play-off chasers, with kick-off at 3pm.
Shields have already reached 100 points, but will be hoping to end their campaign on a high ahead of another new challenge in the Evo-Stik Premier Division next season.
Joint manager Lee Picton said: “I think it’s going to be a really tough game, because Colne are fighting for one of the play-off spots.
“We always try to set high standards in-house, but we’ve also got to be thoroughly respectful of what’s to play for, with a number of teams in the league.
“No way will myself or Graham allow any kind of foot off the gas mentality in the final game.
“We’re going to turn up to win it and sign off in style.
“There’s going to be a party atmosphere regardless, but we’ve got to try to enhance that and make the most of what’s hopefully going to be a special game.
“Whichever side we put out, we’ll be asking for a fully committed performance, and I’m sure it’s one that we’ll get.”
Shields will be without the injured Gavin Cogdon and Anthony Callaghan, but are hopeful Julio Arca and Jon Shaw will return for the 3pm kick-off.
A happy hour will be in operation between 12.30pm and 1.30pm. During that time, pints of Foster’s will be £2, with John Smith’s costing £2, Birra Moretti £3, Strongbow £2 and Heineken bottles (marquee only) available for £1.50.
After the match, a party will begin in the marquee, with all supporters encouraged to stay behind and celebrate this season’s achievements with fellow fans, players and staff.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Champions South Shields reached the 100-point mark for the third season in a row as a clinical display secured a 5-0 win over Kendal Town on Thursday.
The Mariners – who had already sealed the Evo-Stik North title two days earlier – demonstrated just why they had won the league in a superb first half performance.
Goals from Lee Mason, Graeme Armstrong, Carl Finnigan and an own goal by Paul Dawson put them four ahead before half-time, and Armstrong struck again towards the end to complete another thumping victory.
Kendal initially started the brighter of the two teams until Shields took the lead in the seventh minute.
Finnigan hit an effort from the edge of the box which former Mariners goalkeeper Josh Richardson pushed away, but Mason was on hand to sweep the ball home with a composed finish.
A visibly confident Mason had a chance to make it two soon after when he came inside from the left flank before firing a shot which was well blocked.
Within seconds of that, though, Shields did extend their advantage.
A wonderful flowing move led to Michael Richardson receiving the ball in some space on the right of the box, and his inch-perfect cross was powered in by the head of Armstrong from close range.
The third goal arrived on 26 minutes when Armstrong touched the ball through for Finnigan, and he took full advantage as he drove it into the bottom corner with a superb finish from just outside the area.
Shields were threatening to run riot as they celebrated their title win in front of their home fans.
Craig Baxter hit an effort over from distance and Louis Storey drilled an effort not far wide as they kept up the pressure.
The Mariners got their reward five minutes before half-time when Storey got in on the inside-right of the area before fizzing a ball into the danger area.
It cannoned against the unfortunate Dawson and into the corner of the net as the points were made well and truly safe.
With another game to come on Saturday, Shields were less potent after the break, with the team content to hold possession.
But they did find the net again 10 minutes before the end as a Robert Briggs corner from the left was headed in by Armstrong from six yards as he netted his fifth goal in three games.
Shields are at home to Colne on Saturday as they celebrate another superb season in front of what looks set to be a bumper Mariners Park crowd.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Lough (Holmes 46), Morse, Storey, Richardson, Briggs (c) (Juul 67), Armstrong, Finnigan, Mason (Smith 59). Subs not used: Lister, Sullivan.
Goals: Mason (7), Armstrong (10, 80), Finnigan (26), Dawson (own goal 40).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: