A clinical hat-trick from Jason Gilchrist steered South Shields back to winning ways as they got the better of Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
Gilchrist’s first treble for the club was an important one at Sir Tom Finney Stadium against a Brig side which had started the season with a win and a draw.
Shields knew the importance of maximum points after a 3-1 home reverse to Radcliffe four days earlier left them playing catch-up in the early Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
Two goals were traded inside the first 16 minutes, with Gilchrist finishing from close range early on before Matt Dudley equalised for the hosts.
Gilchrist netted again after outstanding work from Darius Osei 12 minutes before the break and completed his hat-trick on the hour mark to take his tally for the Mariners to 30 and move his side up to third in the league.
Phil Turnbull and Will Jenkins were introduced to the starting line-up by joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, but it was Brig who had the first effort of the game as Danny Forbes turned inside the area and had a shot blocked by Dillon Morse, who also got in the way of a follow-up strike from George Thomason.
It took Gilchrist just four minutes to make his mark on the game though as he banished his frustration from four days earlier against Radcliffe, when he hit the woodwork three times.
Darius Osei swung in a cross from the right flank which was headed across the area by Jon Shaw to his defensive partner Morse, whose effort was parried by home goalkeeper Danny Roccia. He could only push the ball back out into his six-yard box, though, where Gilchrist was on hand to convert from close range.
It did not take long for Bamber Bridge to draw level, with their equaliser arriving in the 16th minute.
Some neat interplay on the inside-left of the box concluded as Callum King-Harmes laid the ball off to Dudley and he stroked it into the bottom corner, leaving Myles Boney with no chance.
The hosts had similar joy down their left flank as they searched for a quickfire double, but as Thomason shaped to shoot from a similar position to the one Dudley scored from minutes earlier, Callum Ross charged him down to make the block and underline Shields’ determination not to suffer back-to-back defeats.
Turnbull was a reassuring presence in midfield for the Mariners as he made his first start of the season, albeit in a slightly unfamiliar role on the side of a diamond. He almost assisted a second Gilchrist goal as he lifted a ball down the left and, with Roccia charging well out of his box, the Shields striker hit an effort which struck the goalkeeper and spun towards goal via a bounce on the wet surface before it was scrambled clear.
Forbes tested the palms of Boney with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box but Shields regained their lead on 33 minutes thanks to a sublime link-up between Osei and Gilchrist.
A tremendous control and turn by Osei on the left saw play open up for him and when he fizzed a dangerous low cross into the six-yard box, Gilchrist got in front of his defender to flick the ball home with a deft finish.
There were two half-chances for Brig to equalise for a second time before half-time, but Boney was equal to Forbes’ strike and although he later had to scramble across his goal as King-Harmes curled in a dangerous cross, the ball was ultimately off-target.
Macaulay Wilson had the home side’s first effort of the second half but although his free-kick from 20 yards was low and awkward, Boney clung onto it at the second attempt. There was another heart-stopping moment for Shields as Matt Lawlor’s menacing cross from the right just evaded a meaningful touch.
Shields went close to extending their lead when Osei held the ball up well and played it to Briggs, whose effort with the outside of his right foot curled into the side netting.
On the hour mark, though, Gilchrist was very much on-target as he registered his and Shields’ third of the afternoon in ruthless fashion.
Alex Kempster, who performed admirably in an unfamiliar left-back role, motored down the left flank and his cross fell perfectly into the path of Gilchrist, who guided it into the corner of the net to ease any Mariners nerves.
Although Bamber Bridge saw a lot of the ball in the final half-hour, they were unable to test Boney as their visitors largely kept them at arm’s length.
Shields will now take a short break from league action when they travel to Southport in the FA Cup on Tuesday.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Kempster, Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Turnbull, Briggs, Gilchrist (McCamley 87), Jenkins (Verstraaten 56), Osei (Hodgson 78). Subs not used: Agnew, Croft.
Goals: Gilchrist (4, 33, 60).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields travel to Bamber Bridge on Saturday as they aim to get back to winning ways in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
The match will kick-off at 3pm at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium and supporters are strongly advised not to travel without a ticket. To secure a ticket, call Bamber Bridge on 01772 909695.
Supporters will be able to watch all the action from the comfort of their own home via a live stream. It is available to buy for £5, with the finances to help both clubs. You can pay for the stream and watch it by clicking here, with the pre-match coverage to start at 2.30pm, featuring an interview with joint manager Lee Picton.
Picton has called for greater ruthlessness from his players following Tuesday’s 3-1 home defeat to Radcliffe.
He said: “When you look at the game on Tuesday in the cold light of day, yes we were way below our normal standards in a number of areas but we still should have won the game in terms of chances created.
“Jason Gilchrist hit the bar twice and hit the post in the second half, we had a couple of one-on-one situations, we went really close from a number of set-pieces and we had five or six balls that we flashed across the six yard box that just needed someone to get their toe-end on.
“We could have been talking about a different story, although there would have still been a lot of things we’d need to vastly improve on.
“Moving forwards, we’ve got to be more clinical in the final third and that’s not just the forward players.
“When we get into good crossing areas our delivery has generally got to be better, as does our decision-making sometimes when we find ourselves three-v-three or four-v-four.
“We need to show a bit more composure with our final pass in and around the box, because generally speaking we have been really wasteful once we get into the higher areas of the pitch.”
Picton knows that bouncing back to winning ways will not be an easy task for the Mariners against an impressive and motivated Bamber Bridge side who are returning from a two-week lay-off after a positive Covid test.
Brig had started the season with a win and a draw in the Pitching In Premier League before their enforced break.
Picton has high expectations of his players, though, and wants them to show improved characteristics in Saturday’s game.
He added: “We fully believe in the group that we’ve got and love working with our players.
“We think we have a fantastic dressing room but we have to be tougher.
“If we’re honest, we’re too nice to play against at times and we’ve got to develop some strategies to try to change that.
“Myself and Graham have to look at ourselves first and foremost whenever things are not going right.
“We’ve got to find a way of developing characteristics within our squad that are going to ultimately make us successful over the whole season.
“No matter what stage you’re at it’s a work in progress, but we’ve got plenty to go on.”
Shields will remain without Nathan Lowe and Luke Daly for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, but could welcome back Phil Turnbull.
South Shields came from behind to move six points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves in a difficult position when substitute Alistair Waddecar fired the hosts ahead with a well-taken goal just before half-time.
They had to show tremendous battling and technical qualities after the break to force their way back on level terms, with Josh Gillies delivering the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Jason Gilchrist headed in what proved to be the winner 16 minutes from the end as the Mariners maintained their tremendous away form and strengthened their hopes of promotion ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Nantwich Town.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made just one change to the side which won 4-1 at Gainsborough Trinity the previous weekend, with Gillies introduced in place of the departed Dom McHale.
The start to the game was relatively even, with neither side seriously threatening an opening goal until Gillies crashed a 25 yard free-kick against the crossbar on 20 minutes and the rebound from Darius Osei was hacked clear.
Shields sensed an opening and attacked their hosts again less than a minute later as Osei beat his man down the left of the box before drilling a low effort which goalkeeper Michael Crowe did well to save with his feet.
Myles Boney was untroubled in the Mariners’ goal until six minutes before half-time when he saved from Waddecar before a further shot from the same player was deflected wide.
Bamber Bridge were beginning to seize control of possession and at that stage Shields would have settled for going in at the break goalless, but that prospect was taken away from them when a long ball from Crowe was collected by Waddecar on the left channel and he swivelled before brilliantly clipping an effort home from a tight angle.
Brig picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and had a golden opportunity to double their lead less than a minute after the restart, but Chris Marlow volleyed wide when well placed in the box.
The home side were even more energetic than they had been in the first half but Shields gained a foothold and had their first chance of an equaliser when Nathan Lowe slipped a ball through to Gilchrist and he was twice denied by blocks from Crowe.
The Mariners thought they had equalised in the 55th minute when Dillon Morse headed in but the offside flag cut short the celebrations, and Shields felt hard done by again when a cross by Gillies appeared to strike the arm of a defender but no penalty was given.
Despite that frustration there was a sense that a goal was on its way, and it duly arrived on 61 minutes.
Blair Adams, Gillies and Gilchrist combined before Phil Turnbull beat his man on the left flank and sent in a cross which bounced in the danger zone and was chested down by Gillies, who turned the ball past Crowe with his second touch.
Shields continued the momentum and found what proved to be the winning goal 16 minutes before the end.
Morse sent Osei scampering down the left with a controlled pass from the back and the forward impressively beat a defender before firing in a cross which Gilchrist was on hand to head home from close range.
The Mariners expected a response from Brig and got it, with Jon Shaw forced to block a shot from Sheldon Green and Myles Boney having to claim more than one dangerous cross into the area.
The introduction of Bali Mumba for his debut injected even more energy and excitement into Shields, though, and he almost wrapped things up in stoppage time when he breezed past a defender before firing into the side netting.
A third goal was ultimately not required as the Mariners extended their advantage at the top ahead of Tuesday’s trip to another promotion contender, Nantwich Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull (Briggs 65), Baxter (Verstraaten 62), Lowe, Gilchrist (Mumba 80), Osei, Gillies. Subs not used: Brown, Ross.
Goals: Gillies (61), Gilchrist (74).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.