Guisborough Town 2 VS 3 South Shields
Northern League champions South Shields capped off a superb league campaign as they won 3-2 at Guisborough Town.
The Mariners lifted the league trophy after the game, which they won thanks to goals from Jordan Blinco, Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan.
Despite a host of changes being made to the starting line-up, that didn't seem to affect Shields as they ended the season on 108 points and set themselves up nicely for three cup finals.
For Guisborough, meanwhile, the defeat meant relegation to Northern League Division Two, barring a reprieve should only two teams be relegated as a result of the Mariners' promotion.
However Saturday's game went, a party atmosphere was a certainty as an estimated 750 travelling supporters descended on Guisborough, just four days after the Mariners had sealed the title.
For once, the result was not paramount, but with places in the team for the Durham Challenge Cup, League Cup and FA Vase finals up for grabs, there was never any danger of Shields taking their foot off the gas.
A line-up showing eight changes from the team which beat Ashington on Tuesday took just 100 seconds to take the lead.
Harrison Scott, making his debut at right-back, did well on the flank before playing the ball into the feet of Blinco. His lay-off was intercepted by home defender Matthew Lovatt, but the ball broke back to him and his first-time effort from 20 yards found its way under home goalkeeper James Dawson.
With Guisborough battling to avoid relegation, Shields' early goal was never likely to kill their threat or desire, and they showed good spirit to force their way back into the game.
Ben Hugill had their first sight of goal, but his shot from the edge of the box was easily held by Pete Jameson.
Jameson was beaten on 14 minutes, though, as Guisborough equalised. A ball was floated in from the left by David Onions and the dangerous Steven Roberts nipped in behind to nudge the ball home.
On the rare occasions Shields have suffered adversity this season, they have generally responded swiftly, so it should have been no surprise to see them retake the lead less than three minutes later.
Anthony Callaghan brought the ball forward from the left and played it to Blinco, who showed good strength to hold off his marker before breaking free and finding Smith in space. The long-serving midfielder took a touch and then hammered a shot into the bottom corner from the inside-right of the box to break his duck for the season.
Roberts always looked the home side's biggest threat, and he tested Jameson with a free-kick which had to be tipped over.
Shields became more and more dominant the longer the first half went on, and a number of good opportunities came and went.
Smith dragged a shot wide from 20 yards, Robert Briggs had a free-kick tipped over and then Darren Holden went the closest of all, firing an effort against the post as the Mariners tried to make their pressure count.
Blinco also went close before the break, but his low curler from outside the area went just past the post.
After half-time, things were more even as the Priorymen tried to secure Division One status.
They went close to equalising when Gary Wood found himself in space on the left of the box, but Jameson denied him with his feet.
Shields themselves almost scored when Blinco got in behind on the right and pulled the ball across the box for Finnigan, but Guisborough scrambled to safety and created a chance themselves on the counter-attack, with Louis Goldsack volleying over.
Onions also directed a decent opportunity wide, while Anthony Snook was unfortunate not to level the scores when his piledriver from 30 yards was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Jameson.
The Mariners were having to withstand some pressure, and responded by introducing David Foley from the bench. His pace would prove to have a decisive impact.
Within five minutes of his introduction, he had burst through on the right after being found by fellow substitute Michael Richardson, and when he played the ball low into the area, Finnigan made no mistake as it became 3-1.
That all but killed off Guisborough hopes, and Shields looked likely to add to the scoring before the end of the 90 minutes.
Foley hit an effort inches wide after again getting in behind on the right, while Finnigan had a header saved from a Briggs free-kick.
The hosts did not allow their heads to drop, though, and pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Goldsack met a cross from the right with his head, and diverted it beyond the reach of Jameson.
There was no time left for Guisborough to force their way back into contention, though, and the final whistle soon went to signal the end of a hugely successful league campaign for the Mariners.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Scott (Richardson 45+5), Callaghan, Briggs, Petrache (Lough 82), Storey, Smith (c), Holden, Finnigan, Stephenson, Blinco (Foley 71). Subs not used: Connell, Phillips.
Goals: Blinco (2), Smith (17), Finnigan (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.