Radcliffe 0-4 South Shields: Mariners crowned Evo-Stik North champions
South Shields secured a third successive league championship in style as they won 4-0 at Radcliffe to wrap up the Evo-Stik North Division title with two games to spare.
The Mariners moved onto an unassailable total of 97 points with a composed performance in difficult conditions at Stainton Park.
Gavin Cogdon headed them into the lead midway through the first half, and Michael Richardson doubled the advantage shortly after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men in the second period.
Darren Lough’s dismissal for two bookings soon after left both teams a man light, and although Radcliffe enjoyed a decent spell, Shields held firm and put their foot on the accelerator in the closing stages as substitute Graeme Armstrong scored a brace.
It was another superb win in a season which has been full of them as the Mariners were able to enjoy and celebrate another terrific achievement.
Their victory at Radcliffe was rarely in doubt, although the game itself was in question beforehand after heavy rain left the pitch sodden.
The officials passed the surface fit to play as Shields were given the chance to wrap up the title.
Carl Finnigan was played clean through on goal for the first of them, but clipped the ball wide, and when Michael Richardson was presented with a similar chance soon after, he was denied by a low save from home goalkeeper Connor Keane.
Gavin Cogdon was the next to go close, hammering an effort against a defender and then the crossbar as the Mariners continued to pressurise their opponents.
A number of further half-chances also came and went before Cogdon opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Finnigan sent in a terrific cross from the right and Cogdon stooped low to head it home and get the party started.
Shields – already assured of promotion – were unable to add to their tally before half-time, and saw their chances boosted two minutes into the second half when Radcliffe’s Rick Smith was given a straight red card for a poor challenge on Cogdon.
Cogdon and Robert Briggs both went close to extending the Mariners’ advantage.
But it was Richardson who would add their second as he controlled a Craig Baxter ball forward before brilliantly picking out the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The game turned slightly when Shields’ Darren Lough was sent off for a second yellow card 20 minutes before the end, and the hosts enjoyed their best spell.
Louis Myers hit the post and Liam Connell was forced into a number of saves as he did well to deny Jordan Boves, Myers and James Cooper.
Shields motored on again in the closing stages, and substitute Graeme Armstrong made it three when, after seeing his initial shot saved, he slid the ball home.
Armstrong was to have the final say, too, as he was played in on the right of the box before slotting it past Keane in front of the Mariners’ buoyant travelling supporters.
Shields are back in action on Thursday, with a party atmosphere sure to greet them at Mariners Park for the visit of Kendal Town.
They will complete their season with another home game, against Colne on Saturday.
The celebrations are only just beginning.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Storey, Pattison (Holmes 66), Briggs, Cogdon (Armstrong 55), Finnigan, Richardson. Subs not used: Ross, Juul, Sullivan.
Goals: Cogdon (23), Richardson (57), Armstrong (87, 90+1).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.