A blitz of four goals in nine first half minutes ended Bamber Bridge’s resistance as South Shields recorded a comfortable win at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The game was well poised before Gary Brown opened the scoring for the Mariners just before the half hour mark with a deflected effort from the edge of the box.
That was the cue for the floodgates to open as Shields swarmed over their opponents, with Adam Thurston doubling the lead before Lee Mason notched the third and Josh Gillies added another from the penalty spot.
Bamber Bridge pulled one back in the second half through a penalty of their own, but were unable to find a way back into it.
It was a welcome return to winning ways for Shields, who moved up to third in the table.
Shields welcomed Thurston and David Foley back into the starting line-up after they recovered from hamstring and groin injuries respectively.
Both teams struggled to find an early rhythm as they contended with blustery conditions which led to a series of passes going astray.
There were half chances at both ends before Bamber Bridge created the best opportunity on 20 minutes when a free-kick from deep on the left found Kieran Charnock in the six-yard box, but he could only volley over.
Shields tested visiting goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby for the first time as Foley came in from the right before forcing a decent save, and just a minute later, they found the breakthrough.
A corner from Gillies was half-cleared and the ball eventually broke to Brown, whose effort from the edge of the box took a huge deflection to beat Rigby.
That led to a barrage of Shields attacks and they repeatedly got their rewards as they put the game to bed.
They had to wait just three more minutes to double their lead as Blair Adams drove inside from the left and played the ball into the feet of Thurston, who drilled it into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The third goal soon arrived following some superb football from the Mariners as they worked the ball through to Nathan Lowe on the right of the box and he whipped in a tremendous low cross which Mason converted from close range.
More terrific play from the hosts led to Gillies being fouled in the box soon after, and he picked himself up to rattle the ball into the top corner from the spot as the points were made safe.
It could have been five for Shields before the break, but Foley was denied by Rigby after being found by Thurston and the goalkeeper also kept out a piledriver from distance by Brown.
The Mariners went close again seven minutes into the second half as Lowe’s low cross found Mason but the ball bounced just past the post.
Shields introduced new signing Jordan Annear in Mason’s place shortly after, but the visitors pulled one back from the spot when Adams was adjudged to have fouled in the box and Alistair Waddecar stroked the penalty home.
Gillies was denied by an impressive save from Rigby and Annear was inches away from marking his debut with a goal as he was just unable to connect with a ball across the face of goal by Foley.
Rigby also saved from Lowe, who hit the bar in stoppage time when his cross deceived the goalkeeper.
The final whistle was blown soon after as Shields’ victory was confirmed.
They take a break from league action next Saturday when they host Colne in the first qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter (Baxter 46), Adams (c), Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Gillies, Lowe, Mason (Annear 57), Thurston (Briggs 75), Foley. Subs not used: Guy, Alli.
Goals: Brown (29), Thurston (32), Mason (35), Gillies (pen 38).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields captain Jon Shaw is set for a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
The defender was forced off at half-time of Tuesday’s game against Ashton United at Mariners Park and the injury continues to be assessed, but he will certainly miss Saturday’s match against Hyde United and Monday’s trip to Scarborough Athletic.
Also missing from the weekend’s action will be midfielder Luke Daly, who suffered a knee injury in Tuesday’s game. The injury will be further assessed next week.
David Foley (groin) and Blair Adams (groin) have also been ruled out of the Hyde match, while Craig Baxter will miss both of the weekend fixtures as he continues his recovery from a hernia operation.
Adam Thurston is a doubt for Saturday’s game, with a decision on his availability set to be made on the morning of the match.
South Shields FC have completed the signing of midfielder Adam Thurston, subject to international clearance.
The 24-year-old, who can also play at right-back, is set to become the Mariners’ first addition of the summer.
Thurston has spent the last two years playing in the Southern Hemisphere, most recently for Canterbury United in New Zealand’s top flight.
He spent eight years in Manchester United’s academy before spells with Preston North End, Hyde United and FC United of Manchester.
Thurston – originally from the North West – came to the attention of Shields joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton after his return to the country this summer.
He has now put pen to paper and is excited about the future at Mariners Park.
He said: “I’m buzzing to be here.
“It took a little while to get it over the line but now it’s done, I’m delighted and can’t wait to get going.
“The club has big ambitions and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Thurston prefers a central midfield role and is happy with both attacking and defensive duties, while he is also adept at playing at right-back.
He believes he learned a lot from his spells in Australia and New Zealand, but is looking forward to returning to the style of football he knows best.
He added: “I learned a lot from being away in a different culture and environment.
“I met a lot of good people and loved every minute of it, but I’m delighted to be back and being involved in more competitive football.
“It’s a lot more physical over here.
“I’ve played in this league before and it’s tough because there are no easy games and it’s always competitive.
“Promotion is our aim next season and Lee and Graham have excited me about the plan to move up through the leagues, so I can’t wait to get started.”
Picton was pleased to secure the club’s first new signing of the summer.
He said: “We’re delighted to be bringing someone of Adam’s calibre to the club.
“His footballing journey has brought him through clubs of the stature of Manchester United and Preston North End, and he has played in the top flight of New Zealand football for the last couple of seasons with Canterbury United.
“Adam is a fantastic age and has impressed us massively whenever we have watched him play or met him in person as a human being.
“We feel his personality fits perfectly within the culture we’re trying to further develop at the club.”