South Shields ended Matlock Town’s 10-match unbeaten run in the Evo-Stik Premier Division in emphatic style as they honoured the memory of Jak Fada with a 5-0 win.
Just over a year on from the 10-year-old’s tragic death, the club labelled the match against Matlock as Jak Fada Day as children were allowed entry to the ground for free.
Those present watched a terrific display from Shields, who raced into a 3-0 first half lead thanks to an opener from Carl Finnigan and two from Gavin Cogdon.
The Mariners continued their dominance after half-time and wrapped up the three points with further goals from Jon Shaw and David Foley.
The result kept Shields seventh in the table, nine points off table-topping Nantwich Town with four games in hand.
They went into Saturday’s match expecting a difficult encounter against arguably the league’s most in-form side.
However, despite a strong opening five minutes from Matlock, Shields were in control throughout and thoroughly deserved their comfortable victory.
The Mariners first threatened a breakthrough in the ninth minute when a clearance from visiting goalkeeper Ross Durrant fell to the feet of Ursene Mouanda 30 yards out, and the midfielder was not far away from registering his first goal for the club as his effort looped just over.
They did not have to wait too much longer, though.
Captain Shaw clipped a ball over the top and Lee Mason ran onto it before rounding Durrant and seeing his shot from a tight angle cleared off the line by Adam Yates. Finnigan was determined to get to the loose ball first and did so before ramming it first time into the roof of the net.
It was a poignant moment as Finnigan opened the scoring in the 11th minute – Jak Fada would have been 11 now.
Shields played some outstanding football in the first half and doubled their lead after a terrific flowing move.
Robert Briggs played the ball inside from the right to Finnigan, who hit it first-time beyond the defence for Mason to run onto. Mason sent it across the face of goal and it struck defender Taron Hare before bouncing in off the knee of Cogdon.
Mason was at the heart of much of Shields’ best play and he was unfortunate not to add to the scoring when he got on the end of a Finnigan flick-on and fired over.
Goal number three did arrive before the half-hour mark as Blair Adams split the defence with a superb through ball and Cogdon raced onto it before beating Durrant with an audacious dink.
Matlock were perhaps fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards when Durrant appeared to handle the ball outside the box, but the referee ruled it was inside the area and then penalised Cogdon, who had stolen the ball from the goalkeeper.
Shields hit the bar a minute before half-time when a Briggs corner was headed against the woodwork by a Matlock defender, and Cogdon almost completed a first half hat-trick as Durrant kept out his low drive.
There was no complacency in the second half from the Mariners, who extended their advantage in the 52nd minute.
Briggs curled in a terrific free-kick from the right and Shaw directed a brilliant header into the opposite corner to end any hopes Matlock had of staging a dramatic comeback.
Finnigan went close again when he fired over from a Briggs through ball, before Matlock hit the post when a ball in from the right was diverted towards goal.
Adams, Mason and Craig Baxter all went close, and Phil Turnbull almost netted his first goal for Shields as a ball across the area from Gary Brown was smashed into the side netting.
The fifth goal did arrive six minutes from the end when Briggs again split the defence with a fine through ball and Foley produced a sublime disguised finish on his 100th appearance for the club.
Foley was denied from point-blank range soon after but Shields had already done more than enough to secure the three points.
Next Saturday’s trip to Nantwich promises to be quite some occasion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Mouanda (Brown 71), Briggs, Mason, Finnigan (Gillies 59), Cogdon (Foley 64). Subs not used: Lough, Harmison.
Goals: Finnigan (11), Cogdon (21, 27), Shaw (52), Foley (84).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.