South Shields won the Northern League title for the first time in the club’s history with a 4-1 victory on a memorable night at Ashington on Tuesday.
Roared on by a huge travelling support in a crowd of over 1,000, Shields raced into a three-goal lead inside the first 18 minutes to take a tight grip on the three points.
Although the Colliers came into it more in the second half and pulled a goal back, there was no stopping the Mariners.
Gavin Cogdon struck in stoppage time to add to the first half goals from David Foley (2) and Michael Richardson as Shields moved into an unassailable position at the top of the table.
What followed were euphoric scenes as players and staff celebrated with the supporters, with champagne flowing and the crowd serenading their heroes.
The Mariners had at one stage in the season trailed then-leaders North Shields by 17 points, albeit with five games in hand, but have now sealed the title with a match to spare.
They went into the game at Ashington knowing maximum points would be enough, but suffered a blow on the day of the game when Carl Finnigan – who had scored four goals in his previous two games – was ruled out through injury.
The match did not start in the best manner, either, with Ashington missing a decent early chance when former Shields striker Andrew Bulford turned a knockdown by Ben Harmison wide.
At the other end, the first sighter for the Mariners came when Cogdon headed the ball to Richardson, and he hit a volley not far wide.
The deadlock was broken in the 11th minute when Robert Briggs took a quick throw on the right, allowing Foley to get in behind and fire a shot into the bottom corner for his 31st goal of the season.
He had to wait just four more minutes for goal number 32, and again Briggs was the creator.
This time it was a more orthodox assist for the midfielder as he brilliantly beat the defence with a through ball, allowing Foley to run through, touch the ball around goalkeeper Conor Grant and gratefully stroke it into an empty net.
If that gave Ashington a mountain climb, it was all but game over in the 18th minute.
A ball forward led to confusion between Grant and a defender outside the penalty area and the Ashington duo collided, with the ball bouncing to Richardson, who superbly lifted it over the top of them and into the net via a bounce.
Richardson almost followed Foley in scoring his brace when he was played through on Grant by Barrie Smith, but this time the goalkeeper made a good save to foil the Shields man.
With the job almost done, the Mariners perhaps subconsciously took their foot off the pedal as Ashington came more into proceedings.
Former Shields trialist Luke Salmon volleyed an effort over and Bulford saw a shot deflected wide, but the Colliers were unable to get on the scoresheet before the break to put some pressure on their visitors.
In fact, it could have been four before half-time, only for a shot from Briggs to go past the post.
Ashington were better in the second half, with Shields unable to get a strong hold of possession or threaten in the key areas.
Salmon went closest for the home side when he drilled an attempt narrowly wide, while Bulford was also not far away with an effort after being found in the area.
The hosts got the goal their play arguably deserved when substitute Ryan McGorrigan got hold of a loose ball in the box and did brilliantly to flick it over Liam Connell and in.
Shields were still comfortable enough to feel very confident of seeing out the game, but did more than that as it ticked into the second minute of stoppage time.
Cogdon captalised on a slip from a home defender to run in on goal from the inside-right channel and rifle a shot into the roof of the net to really get the party started.
The joyous scenes at the end are unlikely to ever be forgotten by any of those with a Shields persuasion who witnessed them as appreciation for a terrific league season was shown.
The Mariners will complete their league programme on Saturday by travelling to Guisborough Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Smith, Callaghan (Storey 67), Shaw, Lough, Arca (c) (Holden 47), Briggs, Phillips (Petrache 77), Cogdon, Richardson, Foley. Subs not used: Jameson, Stephenson.
Goals: Foley (11, 15), Richardson (18), Cogdon (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Gavin Cogdon sparked joyous scenes at Mariners Park as his stoppage time strike secured South Shields a dramatic 3-2 win over Ashington on Saturday.
The Mariners – who trailed 2-1 at half-time – had pulled back on level terms with a Julio Arca penalty, and dominated the second half.
However, they had to wait until two minutes past the 90 to snatch the three points, with Cogdon showing assurance in front of goal yet again with a low shot into the corner.
The goal led to jubilant scenes in a bumper Mariners Park crowd of 1,373 as Shields retained their second position in Northern League Division One.
They were certainly made to work hard for it by a dogged Ashington side, though, who recovered well after being initially swept aside in the early exchanges.
Shields were without the injured Jon Shaw, Leepaul Scroggins and Danny Carson, but new signing Gavin Caines was available, and started in the centre of defence.
He made an immediate impact, and handed the Mariners the lead within five minutes.
A Dillon Morse cross from the left was headed at goal by Carl Finnigan and parried by Conor Grant to Caines, who fired into an empty net. It was less than 24 hours after he joined on a dual registration deal with Blyth Spartans.
Shields were well on top, and almost went two ahead soon after when a cross from David Palmer was headed towards goal by Robert Briggs before trickling agonisingly wide.
Out of nothing, though, Ashington levelled in the 12th minute as Kyle Downey’s sweet free-kick from just outside the area on the right nestled in the top corner.
The goal gave the Colliers great confidence as they settled into the game and began to cause Shields problems.
One of their major threats was Lee McAndrew, and he went close to giving them the lead when a ball over the top played him in, but he was unable to lift his shot over the advancing Liam Connell, who made the save.
McAndrew wasn’t denied for long, though, and on 24 minutes, he put the visitors 2-1 up.
A free-kick from halfway was nodded down by Ben Harmison and then volleyed brilliantly into the roof of the net by McAndrew, with Connell left with no chance.
Shields tried to battle their way back into the game, with Robert Briggs hitting an effort wide, but they were unable to get their football flowing against Steve Harmison’s side.
In fact, it was Ashington who went closest to scoring again in the first half, as Ben Harmison drilled narrowly wide from just outside the box.
The Mariners were much-improved after the break, but the Colliers had the best opportunity of the opening minutes as McAndrew got in behind and then fired a shot just past the post.
Shields responded by introducing Andrew Stephenson from the bench for his debut, while Cogdon was brought on at the same time.
They began to press their opponents back, and Briggs went close to drawing them level as he curled an effort not far over from 20 yards.
A period of pressure was rewarded just after the hour mark as a Stephenson ball was reached first by Cogdon, who was fouled by the sprawling Grant as the hosts were awarded a penalty.
Arca’s spot-kick found Grant’s bottom-left corner, despite the goalkeeper’s best attempts to keep it out as he guessed the right way.
Things almost got even better for Shields soon after as Stephenson threaded a pass through for Finnigan, who lifted it just over the bar.
Cogdon, meanwhile, was a constant threat to the Ashington defence, and had one snap-shot saved before hitting the rebound over.
Arca was also increasingly influential by this stage as Shields continued to probe, but Grant was in good form as he tipped a powerful shot from Finnigan wide before again denying the striker.
Finnigan was replaced by David Foley with 15 minutes remaining, and within two minutes of his introduction, Grant tipped his overhead kick over the crossbar.
Cogdon had a shot blocked and Foley had one saved, and time seemed to be running out when Stephenson was denied by an excellent save by the foot of Grant with four minutes left.
However, two minutes into stoppage time, the elusive third goal finally arrived.
Arca robbed the Ashington midfield of possession and then clipped a ball into the box for Cogdon, who controlled it with his chest before composing himself and firing into the bottom corner.
It was the hardest-fought of wins for the Mariners, who remain five points behind leaders North Shields ahead of Wednesday’s trip to champions Shildon.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Arca (c), David Carson, Morse, Caines, Palmer (Cogdon 52), Smith, Finnigan (Foley 75), Briggs, Phillips (Stephenson 52). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding.
Goals: Caines (5), Arca (pen 63), Cogdon (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Andrew Bulford has completed a move from South Shields to Ashington.
The striker, who joined the Mariners in September 2015, made 15 appearances for the club, scoring six times.
The former Dunston UTS player leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club, and South Shields FC would like to wish him all the very best for the future.
@SouthShieldsFC Thanks and all the best for the rest of the season.
— Andrew Mark Bulford (@Bully_Bulford) January 30, 2016