WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields were watched by their biggest home crowd for 20 years as they racked up an eighth straight win with a 4-0 thumping of Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on Saturday.
More than 1,000 fans were at the Northern League Division Two game, with goals by Lewis Teasdale, Warren Byrne, Julio Arca and Leepaul Scroggins wrapping up the three points.
The crowd of 1,045 was the biggest at Mariners Park since 1,500 saw Shields take on Spennymoor in the Durham Challenge Cup final of 1995 as the positive vibe around the club continues.
They made hard work of it at times against plucky Ryton, but showed their class at the start and end of the game to further cement their place in second.
The first opportunity of the match fell to Shields captain Scroggins 25 yards out, and his powerful drive was well cleared by the head of Gavin Cox.
Adam Curry – who was a constant presence going forward from left-back – then delivered a superb low cross which goalkeeper Tom Chrostowski parried to Andrew Bulford, but he was unable to react quickly enough and the ball bounced away.
The Mariners opened the scoring on 12 minutes, though, when a cross from the left by Arca was headed back across goal by Bulford and turned in by Teasdale as he claimed his first goal for the club.
At the other end, the rarely troubled Scott Pocklington kept out an effort from Phil Robinson, but that was a rare foray forward for Ryton.
Teasdale was denied when Chrostowski saved his shot from distance, while Bulford wasted a huge opportunity when he was sent through on goal by a ball over the top from Ben Riding, but could only skew his effort into the side netting.
Bulford had an uncharacteristically frustrating afternoon in front of goal, but almost scored a spectacular one when Teasdale’s header across the box went behind him, and he acrobatically attempted an overhead kick which went past the post.
Josh Holland – who had a spell with Shields in pre-season – hit one towards goal at the other end, but Riding got in the way of it, and Bulford headed wide for the Mariners after being found by Wayne Phillips.
Shields knew they could be made to pay for their missed chances, and that almost proved to be the case seven minutes after half-time when Ryton’s Sam Moore was sent clean through on goal, but poked the ball wide.
That appeared to be the warning sign the hosts needed, and they almost went 2-0 up when a wicked Adam Sakr delivery from the right was powerfully headed against his own crossbar by Adam Chrostowski.
The resulting corner was curled invitingly into the six-yard box by Arca, but substitute Byrne was just unable to get clean contact on the ball and it went wide.
Byrne got his goal on 67 minutes, though, when Curry made a powerful run through the centre and then slotted the ball through for the Shields striker, and he made no mistake as he drove it home.
Another substitute, David Foley, hammered one not far wide soon after, while Sakr hit a shot wide at the back post after a cross from Phillips on the left.
Byrne hit the crossbar when he headed a Curry cross back across goal, and then missed another glorious opportunity after being found by Arca seven yards out as he fired over.
The gloss was added to the scoreline in the closing stages, though, and former Sunderland and Middlesbrough star Arca provided a memorable moment to delight the four-figure crowd.
After collecting a ball which had dropped just outside the box, the Argentinean fainted to move one way, drawing the ball away from the defender before curling majestically into the net off the post.
Arca was not finished there, and two minutes into stoppage time, his tremendous corner from the right was nodded in by Scroggins as the scoreline was given more of a one-sided look.
It capped a superb day for the Mariners in front of one of the biggest attendances in the country on the day, and was their eighth win in a row, with just one goal conceded in that sequence.
They will hope to claim another three points when Billingham Synthonia visit Mariners Park on Tuesday for a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Curry, Hall, Riding, Arca, Sakr (Ramsey 80), Scroggins (c), Bulford (Foley 59), Teasdale (Byrne 53), Phillips. Subs not used: Young, Wightman.
Goals: Teasdale (12), Byrne (67), Arca (90), Scroggins (90+2).