South Shields returned to winning ways in convincing fashion as they got the better of Bamber Bridge on an entertaining afternoon at 1st Cloud Arena.
A stunning long-range strike by Mitch Rose set the Mariners on their way and the confidence was flowing when Will McGowan slid in a second on 25 minutes.
Darius Osei made it three just after the hour mark and although the Brig pulled one back, Shields soon stretched their lead again when Sam Hodgson notched to effectively make the points safe.
Mark Yeates’ stoppage time consolation for the visitors completed the scoring but the majority of the 2,173 crowd went home happy as Shields reduced Buxton’s lead at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League to two points.
Hodgson and Robert Briggs replaced JJ Hooper and the injured Cedric Main as Kevin Phillips made two changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Lancaster City in midweek.
There was an early opportunity when Osei headed narrowly wide from a McGowan corner and the breakthrough took just 13 minutes to arrive.
McGowan was again the provider as Shields won the ball high up the pitch and the midfielder laid it off, but this goal was all about Rose as he took a touch 25 yards from goal before rifling it past the despairing Matthew Hudson with one of the best strikes of the season.
The Mariners had started the game superbly and Osei was looking particularly electric. He threatened to make it two when he beat his man with a smart turn before breaking into the area and firing a low effort which Hudson clung onto at the second attempt.
Shields did get the second goal their play deserved when Dillon Morse caressed a terrific pass over the top from the halfway line on the right which McGowan controlled on his chest, took a touch and then slotted under Hudson with a clinical finish.
Osei was kept off the scoresheet as a Briggs header found him 20 yards from goal and with Hudson advancing, the goalkeeper beat away what was a long-range header from the frontman.
The home side’s best opportunity for a third before half-time was wonderfully created and culminated when Osei and Briggs combined to release Blair Adams into the box, but the left-back’s low strike from 10 yards flashed just past the opposite post.
There was also an effort from distance from McGowan which curled narrowly wide but Shields took good momentum into the interval as they aimed to come back out and make the points safe.
There were some half-chances for the visitors to gain a foothold early in the second half. A free-kick from Paul Dawson was deflected comfortably wide and Matthew Thompson blazed over from the edge of the box, with Shields also throwing bodies on the line to produce blocks from Fin Sinclair-Smith and Thompson.
Substitute Yeates had a shot deflected wide, too, but the most incisive play came from the Mariners when they needed it most just after the hour mark.
Jon Shaw cleared from a corner and Hodgson’s strong hold-up play saw the ball break to Osei, who took a touch on the halfway line to sprint clear of the Brig defence before racing through on goal and showing impressive composure to pick out the bottom corner and puncture any momentum the visitors had been building.
Adams sent a half-volley over as Shields aimed to stretch their lead even further and there were more chances, with Osei having a deflected shot saved and the same player firing narrowly wide from the edge of the box as the hosts continued to purr.
There was a glimmer of hope for Brig when Dawson converted a penalty after Shaw had been adjudged to have committed a foul in the area, but the Mariners were quickly on the front foot again and almost immediately restored their three-goal advantage, only for substitute Will Jenkin’s low strike to be kicked away by Hudson.
Shields did add a fourth 12 minutes from the end as Hodgson deservedly etched his name onto the scoresheet with a first-time finish from a teasing low cross by Adams.
The final word ultimately went to the away side when Yeates fired in a free-kick from the edge of the box a minute into stoppage time, but the points had long since been sealed by the Mariners as they continued their impressive home form and closed the gap at the top.
They are back in action next Saturday when they take on Stafford Rangers at 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose (Jenkins 55), Briggs, Hodgson, McGowan (Tee 80), Osei (Hooper 80). Subs not used: Kempster, Lowe.
Goals: Rose (13), McGowan (25), Osei (61), Hodgson (78).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields are back on home soil on Saturday when they welcome Bamber Bridge to 1st Cloud Arena in the Pitching In Northern Premier League (3pm kick-off).
The Mariners’ last four fixtures have all been away from home and none of them yielded a victory.
That sequence of results has left Shields second in the table, four points behind leaders Buxton heading into the final seven league games of the season.
On Saturday they meet a Bamber Bridge side which have won one of their last nine games to fall to seventh, but they did win in their most recent outing, against Grantham Town.
The Brig also won the reverse fixture 3-0 in October, so the Mariners are well aware of the dangers they pose.
Shields manager Kevin Phillips has called for a response from his side after 1-0 defeat at Lancaster City on Tuesday.
He said: “The beauty of football is that you’ve never got long to wait to try to put things right, so that’s a positive.
“Our home form of late has been very good and we need to take that into Saturday.
“Our task is simple. We have to win football matches.
“We can’t afford to drop many more points if we want to get promoted automatically so Saturday is a massive game for us, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on the players because they know that.
“It will be a tough match but we have to get over Tuesday very quickly and respond well.”
Phillips added: “I’m a positive person, but I have to say Tuesday was probably the lowest I’ve felt since I’ve been here.
“I didn’t dwell on it too long though because I couldn’t afford to.
“All you can do is look for a response and in the main we have done that, especially in home games, so that’s what I’m looking for on Saturday.”
Shields remain without midfielder Callum Ross, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
They are otherwise set to have a strong squad to select from.
Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s. The gates will open at 12.30pm.
Admission can be paid for at turnstiles 3, 4, 5 and 6, but tickets can be purchased in advance until 12pm on matchday by clicking here.
Supporters are encouraged to stay behind after the game to enjoy live music from Bottle Rocket, who will perform in the marquee from 5pm. The lads proved to be extremely popular on their previous visits this season.
Meanwhile, Happy Hour pricing will be in place in all open bars between 6pm and 7pm.
If you are unable to attend the game, follow live updates on the club’s Twitter channel, www.twitter.com/southshieldsfc.
Bamber Bridge inflicted a first league defeat of the season on South Shields with an impressive performance at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
Brig did the damage with three unanswered goals in the first half and although the Mariners pushed hard for a route back into the game after the break, they were unable to find a way through.
Shields – who went unbeaten in their first 12 league games – remained second in the Pitching In Northern Premier League despite the loss, three points behind leaders Matlock Town.
There were few signs of the problems to come when the Mariners got off to a bright start, with Robert Briggs spraying a superb ball out to Alex Kempster, whose cross from the left was cut out by home goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt.
It was Bamber Bridge who struck first on 14 minutes, though, with Mark Yeates whipping in a corner from the right and top scorer Ewan Bange powering it into the top corner with his head.
Shields had a good spell around the 20 minute mark as Conor Tee was denied by a fine tackle just as he was about to pull the trigger and Jon Shaw was twice kept off the scoresheet by brave blocks.
Brig were clinical when they got a sight of goal and doubled their lead midway through the first half when Finlay Sinclair-Smith forced his way through on the left of the area and toed the ball past Myles Boney.
Sheldon Green added a third for the hosts to make it a mountain to climb for the Mariners as he broke through the centre and found the finish he needed.
There could have been another before half-time, but Boney did well to save with his legs from Yeates.
Shields introduced Darius Osei and Will McGowan at the break and produced a much-improved performance in the second half, but were unable to beat Hewelt.
Osei fired wide within 20 seconds of the restart and Ntumba Massanka hit an effort just past the post as the Mariners started the half well.
Half-time substitute Osei was at the heart of much of Shields’ brightest play but he was twice denied by Hewelt and twice hit shots wide as the visitors were unable to get the goal they needed to put Brig under some pressure.
The closest the Mariners came were headers from Dillon Morse and Kempster which were cleared off the line, with Briggs also unfortunate not to score when he beat Hewelt – but also, narrowly, the crossbar – with a lob in the closing stages.
It was ultimately a night to forget for Shields, who will aim to return to winning ways when they host Basford United on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Martin, Bodenham, Briggs, Morse, Ross (c), Tee, Lowe (McGowan 46), Shaw (Osei 46), Massanka, Kempster. Subs not used: Rossiter, Hodgson, Stead.