South Shields got back to winning ways in convincing fashion as an assured display steered them to a 2-0 success at Tadcaster Albion on Saturday.
The Mariners were solid throughout as they ended a run of three games without a win and moved back to the top of the Evo-Stik North Division.
Gavin Cogdon’s strike on the half-hour and a late goal to seal it from Carl Finnigan were enough for Shields in front of a tremendous away following.
The result saw them leapfrog Prescot Cables into top spot after the Merseyside-based club were beaten 2-0 at home by Colne.
Shields – without the likes of the injured Robert Briggs, Craig Baxter, Anthony Callaghan, Jack Norton and Andrew Stephenson – were bright in the early stages as they looked to bounce back from their New Year’s Day defeat to Scarborough Athletic.
Their first sights of goal saw Matty Pattison curl an effort wide from distance and an off-balance Finnigan denied by former Sunderland, York City and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael Ingham.
Shields built up the pressure by keeping possession well and rarely letting Tadcaster out of their own half, and got their reward in the 30th minute.
The Mariners built up a move from the back and edged their way forward before Darren Lough touched the ball to Cogdon, who came inside from the left and then buried an effort across Ingham and into his far corner.
It was almost 2-0 soon after when Julio Arca and Alex Nicholson combined well to find Pattison on the edge of the box, and he put the ball onto his right foot before firing narrowly over.
Shields were well on top and a second goal before half-time looked increasingly likely.
They were unfortunate not to double their lead when another fine move involving Nicholson and Pattison saw Finnigan given a sighter of goal from close range, but Ingham did brilliantly to kick away his effort. The ball bounced up to Cogdon, whose header was on target but held up in the pitch before being cleared off the line.
Chances were harder to come by in the second half for the Mariners, but Liam Connell’s goal was kept well protected and there was rarely a concern the hosts may break Shields down.
Finnigan will have been disappointed not to add his name to the scoresheet on 50 minutes when a brilliant pass by Pattison put him in, but Ingham was again on hand to save.
Ingham also denied Lough his first goal for Shields after the left-back made another strong surge forward, with his powerful effort well held by the goalkeeper.
Despite Shields’ general domination of play, there will have been concern going into the closing stages that the margin of their lead remained at one, and so a second goal to settle any nerves was required.
It almost came when Pattison’s shot from the edge of the box was diverted goalwards by Dillon Morse, who forced a fingertip save out of Ingham.
Ingham’s form continued to be inspired later in the game as Lough again got in behind, and this time his low effort was beaten away by the goalkeeper’s legs.
Finally, the second goal to seal the three points arrived five minutes before the end.
Connell’s kick forward was played on by Finnigan to Holmes, and his effort was parried by Ingham. The ball broke back to the Shields forward, though, and he showed good composure to play it across the box to Finnigan, who forced it in.
It was a justified reward for a composed performance by Shields, who saw Connell tested for the first time in the fourth minute of stoppage time as he held a low effort from Joe Pugh.
It was a very welcome three points for the Mariners as they got back to winning ways, and they will now look to push on in next Saturday’s home match against Mossley.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Smith, Storey (Richardson 77), Cogdon (Holmes 72), Pattison, Finnigan (Juul 88). Subs not used: Lister, Scott.
Goals: Cogdon (30), Finnigan (85).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot..