David Foley netted a brace as South Shields secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Atherton Collieries with a convincing performance in front of the biggest Mariners Park crowd of the season to date.
Over 1,750 fans witnessed Foley’s double and a first goal for the club from Sanmi Odelusi, who was making his first home appearance for the Mariners.
The result rarely seemed in much doubt and moved Shields eight points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division table.
They went into the match without the injured Josh Gillies and ill Lee Mason, with Adam Thurston and Odelusi replacing them in the starting line-up.
Shields started brightly and after Robert Briggs fired over from 25 yards, an even better chance fell the way of Odelusi.
The Mariners worked a move down the right and Foley was played in before squaring the ball for the frontman, who put it wide from close range as he was made to wait for his first goal.
The hosts went even closer to taking the lead when a Briggs free-kick from the left was dropped by Atherton goalkeeper Oliver Byrne to the feet of Gary Brown, but his first-time effort squirmed wide.
Atherton struggled to put pressure on the Shields back line but did create a chance on the break in the 21st minute when Vincent Bailey scampered through the centre and played in Jordan Cover, who struck across the ball and saw his shot swerve past the post.
The deadlock was finally broken on 28 minutes as two of the Mariners’ most experienced players combined.
Briggs got away from his man in midfield and used the space to good effect by finding Foley, who brought the ball onto his left foot before firing a low effort past Byrne for his first goal of the season.
Shields barely gave Atherton time to breathe as they won the ball back almost immediately from kick-off and they soon went close to doubling their lead as Briggs fired not far over from distance.
The second goal arrived seven minutes before half-time as Odelusi marked his home debut in style.
Nathan Lowe took a great deal of credit for his role in it as he swung in an inch-perfect cross from the left which Odelusi stooped low to head in from close range.
The Mariners picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and after Foley had a shot blocked, he soon added his second of the afternoon.
A long passing move from the hosts reached its climax as Jordan Hunter brilliantly picked out Thurston down the right of the box and he put the ball on a plate for Foley to finish from six yards.
The remainder of the half saw Shields tire their opponents out with impressive possession and probing, with Atherton rarely threatening a consolation goal.
The closest they got was in the 55th minute as Cover raced through towards goal and looked destined to score, but Brown chased him superbly and eventually made an excellent tackle to deny him.
Lowe went close to notching a fourth for the Mariners when he blasted the ball narrowly over from the edge of the box after being teed up by substitute Jason Gilchrist, and Gilchrist went close himself as a Byrne clearance ricocheted against him before trickling just wide.
Shields generally appeared content to keep the ball and conserve their energy in the latter stages as they wrapped up another three points to continue their impressive run.
They are back in action on Tuesday when they take on Stalybridge Celtic in another league fixture at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown (Wokoma 82), Thurston, Lowe (Baxter 68), Odelusi (Gilchrist 61), Briggs (c), Foley. Subs not used: Charlton, Shaw.
Goals: Foley (28, 51), Odelusi (38).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields took another huge step towards promotion on Thursday with a terrific 2-0 win at Atherton Collieries.
The Mariners’ fourth successive league victory moved them three points clear of Hyde United at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division, with two games in hand.
Third-placed Scarborough Athletic were held to a 0-0 draw at Tadcaster Albion as Shields’ lead over them stretched to seven points with a game in hand.
The Mariners were up against an Atherton side in excellent form, having recently claimed the scalp of Scarborough.
However, their composed performance meant they were rarely troubled as they showed the qualities which have made their season so successful thus far.
They took the lead in the 13th minute, moments after Chris Lynch had headed a presentable opportunity wide for the hosts.
Dillon Morse sent a superb pass downfield which Lee Mason ran onto, and just as the angle looked as though it had become too tight, he squeezed the ball home for his fourth goal in three games.
Moments later, the lively Michael Richardson got in behind and looked set to score, but his effort was cleared off the line.
Chances were hard to come by for both teams, but the Mariners went close again when Craig Baxter’s sweet strike from 25 yards was well held by goalkeeper Greg Hartley.
Aksel Juul was introduced at half-time by Shields, and his impact was immediate.
A Richardson cross was clawed away from goal by Hartley but the Mariners kept the ball alive and the ball was played to Juul, who swept it into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Richardson curled an effort over, Mason volleyed past the post and Robert Briggs had a shot saved as Shields looked to add some gloss to the scoreline.
They continued to keep the ball well and saw the game out with ease to claim another important three points.
With at least the top two to win promotion, Shields are in a commanding position.
They will hope to maintain their fine form when they travel to Ossett Albion on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Ross 80), Storey, Briggs, Mason (Armstrong 70), Richardson, Holmes (Juul 46). Subs not used: Woolston, Nicholson.
Goals: Mason (13), Juul (50).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Monday’s Evo-Stik North Division fixture between Atherton Collieries and South Shields has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
The Mariners’ wait for a return to match action will go on after the pitch at the Kensite Stadium failed a lunchtime pitch inspection.
A new date for the game will be announced in due course.