Dunston UTS 2 VS 4 South Shields
Wayne Phillips struck an excellent brace as South Shields maintained their fine form with a 4-2 win at Dunston UTS.
It was a fifth victory in a row for the Mariners, and a third inside a week away from home, following successes at Shildon (1-0) and Morpeth Town (4-0).
Dunston battled well at the UTS Stadium and caused their visitors some problems, but second-placed Shields always looked the likelier winners, with David Foley and Carl Finnigan also on the scoresheet.
With an FA Vase tie against Runcorn Linnets coming up on Saturday, Shields made five changes from the team which thrashed Morpeth 4-0 on Saturday.
In came Anthony Callaghan for his debut, along with Joss Carmichael, Barrie Smith, Phillips and Finnigan.
Dunston provided them with a scare early on, with former Chester-le-Street Town striker Scott Heslop spurning a decent opportunity as he turned a right-wing cross wide.
Foley went close at the other end after the Mariners stole the ball in the centre of the park before he was played in, and his shot across goal went not far wide.
Shields took the lead in the 17th minute when the game was injected with some real quality.
Andrew Stephenson picked up the ball centrally and played an exquisite pass through the middle for Phillips, who ran onto it and kept his composure to fire low into the net.
Within three minutes, Dunston were level as Liam Thear scored via the post with a low effort from the edge of the box.
Shields gradually began to wrestle control again, though, and Foley restored their advantage shortly before half-time.
Stephenson was again the provider, allowing Foley to use his pace to outstrip the defence before getting to the ball before the goalkeeper and finishing into the bottom corner.
Before the break, both sides had a decent chance, with Carmichael denying James Luccock at one end, while a shot from Phillips at the other did not have the power to beat home goalkeeper Mark Cook after a fine move.
After the interval, Carmichael beat away an effort from Heslop as Dunston tried to force a second equaliser, and the striker also turned a cross from the right wide.
Shields introduced Robert Briggs from the bench and they went on to enjoy the better of proceedings.
They extended their lead in the 64th minute after more excellent play, with Callaghan releasing Stephenson on the left before he superbly beat his defender on the left-hand side.
Stephenson pulled the ball back for Foley, whose effort struck the heel of Finnigan before looping into the net for his 10th goal of the season.
Finnigan slammed a further shot wide before Dunston pulled a goal back, with Heslop adding his name to the scoresheet when he sent a superb header into the top corner following a left-wing cross.
The hosts were unable to press Shields back in search of an equaliser, though, and the points were wrapped up in stunning fashion as Phillips scored the goal of the game with five minutes left.
Finnigan had a shot blocked and the ball broke to Phillips on the right, who cut inside and struck a stunning effort into the top corner.
That completed another job well done for the Mariners as they stayed second in Northern League Division One, two points behind leaders North Shields, who won 4-0 at Seaham Red Star on the same night.
For South Shields, the FA Vase is now on the horizon as in-form Runcorn Linnets visit South Tyneside on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Carmichael, Smith, Callaghan, David Carson (Briggs 56), Shaw, Riding (Morse 65), Phillips, Scroggins (c), Finnigan, Stephenson, Foley (Baxter 87). Subs not used: Connell, Cogdon.
Goals: Phillips (17, 85), Foley (39), Finnigan (64).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.