South Shields were presented with the Evo-Stik North Division trophy after completing another successful season with a 2-1 win over Colne on Saturday.
A party atmosphere greeted the teams as more than 2,100 fans packed into Mariners Park to celebrate Shields’ latest achievement.
They saw the Mariners sign off with a hard-fought victory thanks to a quickfire double from Lee Mason and Carl Finnigan in the first half, with Waqas Azam’s reply not enough to keep Colne’s play-off hopes alive.
Captain Julio Arca was presented with the league trophy after the game by Sarah Bartram, from league sponsors Evo-Stik, and Laura Drew, from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, as the celebrations truly started.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s Mariners ended the campaign on 103 points thanks to their final-day victory.
Colne were hoping to play the role of party poopers and did push Shields all the way but, despite having relatively little to play for, the Mariners again showed the determination required to win maximum points.
They were not firing on all cylinders from the start, though, and the first opportunities fell the way of the visitors, with Matthew Morgan sending a half-volley wide and the dangerous Alex Curran seeing a drive pushed away by Liam Connell.
After the half-hour mark, Shields clicked into gear and almost took the lead when Lee Mason’s effort was cleared off the line by Christopher Lynch, who somehow picked himself up to also keep out a goalbound effort from Craig Baxter.
The ball was soon in the net, though, as Dillon Morse headed a Robert Briggs corner towards goal and Mason hooked it in to continue his fine run of form.
Carl Finnigan delivered a hammer blow to Colne’s play-off hopes less than two minutes later when, after being found by Michael Richardson, he brought the ball onto his right foot and hammered it home to double the Mariners’ advantage.
Graeme Armstrong headed a decent chance over before Colne found a way back into it when Waqas Azam’s effort from the edge of the box squirmed through the hands of Connell.
They pushed for a vital equaliser in the second half, with Azam firing into the side netting, while at the other end, Mason curled one just wide and Shields had a number of other attempts to increase their advantage.
Colne kept the game alive and their hope was rekindled six minutes before the end when Shields left-back Matty Pattison was shown a red card for two quickfire bookings.
They had some opportunities, with Curran having a shot saved by Connell and Daniel Wilkins denied by an impressive block from Baxter.
Connell saved from Curran in Colne’s best chance as Shields saw the game out. Another season of success was over.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Smith 61), Richardson, Briggs, Armstrong (Sullivan 51), Finnigan, Mason (Holmes 69). Subs not used: Storey, Juul.
Goals: Mason (33), Finnigan (35).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.