South Shields ended 2016 on a high as another two goals from David Foley helped them to a 4-1 win over Penrith at Mariners Park.
Foley’s brace was added to by second half goals from Carl Finnigan and Julio Arca as the Mariners made it 17 victories from their last 18 games in all competitions.
It is also nine consecutive wins for Shields, who move into the New Year still five points behind Northern League Division One leaders North Shields, who battled to a 2-1 triumph at Newcastle Benfield on Boxing Day.
That result had put the pressure on the Mariners, but they were always in control against their Cumbrian opponents.
A strong wind affected the game, and almost handed Shields the opening goal when a Robert Briggs free-kick was blown onto the crossbar.
Foley was denied by goalkeeper Stuart Dixon after he did well to narrow the angle, before he beat him soon after with a superb strike from 20 yards, which went in off the post.
Shields rarely conceded possession as they looked to make the most of having the wind at their backs, but in the end the conditions did not prove to be to their benefit.
It made breaking through the Penrith back-line more difficult, but they almost made it 2-0 when Arca showed great composure to pick out Michael Richardson just inside the box, and his shot through a sea of bodies was excellently kept out by the feet of Dixon.
Penrith’s forays forward were rare, but Jon Shaw did well to block an effort from Andrew Murray-Jones after he turned in the area.
At the other end, Dixon saved an effort from distance by Foley, and the hosts were unable to add to their lead before half-time in front of a Mariners Park crowd of 1,222.
It took them less than a minute in the second half to make it 2-0 as Richardson drove through the centre and found Wayne Phillips on the inside-left of the box, who hit a ball across goal which Finnigan diverted in.
The Mariners nearly extended their advantage further almost immediately as some good probing play led to an eventual shot from Briggs which went over.
Foley sealed the points soon after as he stole the ball in the centre of the park, ran through on goal and beat Dixon to score his sixth goal in two games.
Penrith pulled a goal back as Grant Davidson headed in, but less than a minute later, Shields had a penalty after a handball.
Arca sent Dixon the wrong way from the spot and with that, there was no way back for the visitors.
Gavin Cogdon played the final half-hour on his comeback from a groin injury, but the Mariners were just unable to extend their lead.
Foley had several attempts for a third hat-trick of the season, the most spectacular of which came when he beat his man with some brilliant skill on the inside-right of the box before shooting just wide with the outside of his right foot.
Foley also hit one just wide from the edge of the box, while at the other end, Liam Connell was called into action as he made an impressive stop from substitute Shaun Gardner.
Alex Nicholson and Foley linked up well on the right in the second half, and one good piece of play between the pair led to another effort which went not far wide from Foley.
A well-worked free-kick routine shortly afterwards saw Briggs pull the ball across for Arca on the edge of the box, and his shot was destined for the bottom corner before Dixon palmed it behind.
Dixon did well to keep out further efforts from Foley and Nicholson in the closing stages as Shields aimed for goal number five, which just would not arrive.
The Mariners are now not in action until Monday, January 2, when they host Jarrow Roofing in a 1pm kick-off in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Shaw, Baxter, Arca (c), Briggs, Phillips (Holden 77), Finnigan (Cogdon 60), Richardson (Stephenson 55), Foley. Subs not used: Morse, Ramsey.
Goals: Foley (12, 49), Finnigan (46), Arca (pen 58).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.