South Shields ended 2018 on a high with a comfortable win over Workington at Mariners Park on Saturday.
Shields made it 10 wins out of 10 at home in the league with a 4-1 victory over the Cumbrian side in front of a crowd of more than 1,500.
The Mariners dominated possession but had to work hard for their chances, and they had only a Lee Mason goal to show for their efforts at half-time.
They pressed ahead after the break, though, with strikes from Nathan Lowe, Robert Briggs and substitute Josh Gillies sealing the three points before Workington pulled one back late on.
The result moved Shields up a place to fourth in the Evo-Stik Premier Division, eight points behind leaders Nantwich Town with three games in hand.
Workington were a tough nut to crack at Mariners Park, belying their second-bottom league position.
But it was Shields who started on the front foot, with Lowe forcing goalkeeper Aaran Taylor into a smart stop early on with a 25 yard drive.
The game sprung into life in the 12th minute when David Foley produced an impressive turn just inside the Workington half and played the ball to Mason, who beat his defender before stroking it into the bottom corner for his fifth goal in three games.
The Reds occasionally threatened an equaliser, and the closest they came followed a well-worked move down the right and a header by Kieran Maguire which Jon Shaw had to hook to safety.
The goal-saver almost turned goalscorer soon after when Shaw met a Briggs corner at the near post, but his header was saved well by Taylor.
Shields almost doubled their advantage on 22 minutes when Lowe wriggled his way into the area before the ball was diverted to Mason, whose goalbound effort was kicked away by Taylor.
The Mariners were mainly restricted to shots from distance in the remainder of the first half, and were almost pegged back on the stroke of half-time when a Scott Allison effort was deflected just wide and Liam Connell clawed the ball to safety from the resulting corner.
Workington’s impressive efforts continued into the second half and they had two more opportunities to level, with Dillon Morse doing well to block from Jordan Holt and Daniel Wordsworth heading another presentable chance over.
The Cumbrians were thwarted on 57 minutes, though, when a free-kick from just outside the area by Lowe took a deflection before nestling in the top corner to double Shields’ lead.
It was Lowe’s first goal for the club, and made him the 500th different player to score for the Mariners since their reformation in 1974.
Foley had a superb afternoon and was at the heart of Shields’ third goal as he advanced into the penalty area before being fouled.
On his 27th birthday and his 200th appearance for the club, Briggs stepped up to rattle home a low penalty to put the result beyond any doubt.
The hosts’ fourth goal came 12 minutes from the end when Taylor miscued a clearance and Shields academy prospect Callum Guy latched onto the loose ball before showing good composure to pick out fellow substitute Gillies, who made no mistake from close range.
The Mariners were threatening to run riot and almost scored again after Gillies sprinted in behind on the right and fired a low ball into the box which just evaded Mason and Guy.
Workington showed good character to respond in the latter stages and after Sean Patterson went close, they did pull a goal back when Conor Tinnion drifted in from the right before rifling a low effort beyond the reach of Connell.
It was to prove no more than a consolation goal, though.
Teenager Guy was making an impressive cameo for Shields and his brightest moment saw him waltz through the Workington defence before being fouled, with the referee judging the infringement had taken place just outside the penalty area. Taylor did well to keep out Lowe’s resulting free-kick.
A final chance saw another substitute Gary Brown smash a shot against the post as Shields settled for a 4-1 victory which keeps them in the promotion mix heading into 2019.
They will kick-off the New Year with a home game against North Ferriby United on New Year’s Day.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c) (Brown 74), Morse, Turnbull (Guy 74), Foley, Briggs, Mason, Finnigan (Gillies 69), Lowe. Subs not used: Adams.
Goals: Mason (12), Lowe (57), Briggs (pen 68), Gillies (78).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.