Darius Osei and Blair Adams both notched doubles as South Shields ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over Stalybridge Celtic in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

Osei’s first half brace was followed by two goals from Adams after the break, with the Mariners producing one of their most convincing displays of the campaign.

The result kept them two points behind leaders Buxton heading into the final three league fixtures.

Kevin Phillips named an unchanged team for this vital clash, with Sam Wilding retaining his place in midfield as he made his first start at 1st Cloud Arena.

Adams and Jordan Hunter were vital to the victory and they linked up as early as the second minute when Hunter’s deep cross from the right was headed wide by his fellow wing-back at the back post.

There was another good chance for the hosts before Stalybridge had time to catch their breath, with Jack Bodenham slipping in Sam Hodgson, whose drive was saved by the legs of visiting goalkeeper Grant Shenton.

Hodgson also headed over from a pinpoint Adams cross as Shields kept up the pressure, and the sense a goal was on its way became stronger when Osei strode into the box and rattled the outside of the post.

The deserved breakthrough arrived on 18 minutes with a fine piece of play as Robert Briggs released Hunter down the right and he raced to the byline before pulling the ball across the face of goal, where Osei was on hand to tuck it into an empty net.

Shields were unfortunate not to double their lead when Briggs presented Hodgson with an open goal and the striker converted, only to see the assistant referee’s flag deny him after a marginal offside.

They did not have to wait much longer for goal number two, with Briggs again proving to be the provider as he threaded a through ball to Osei and he rolled it under Shenton to double his tally for the afternoon.

Hodgson did not get on the scoresheet but he was a lively presence throughout his time on the pitch. His latest chance saw him hook a shot over after a flick-on from strike partner Osei.

The Mariners will have felt unfortunate not to go in at half-time with a more comfortable advantage. They had further opportunities in the closing stages of the first half and the closest they came was a curler from Briggs which dipped just past the post.

There were also some sights of goal at the other end, with Conor Falls firing wide from 20 yards, Charley Doyle heading not far wide from a Douglas Nyaupembe cross and Stephen Brogan having an effort saved by Myles Boney.

Shields controlled possession well after the break and had a golden opportunity to make it three in the 49th minute.

Hunter again found space on the right and another superb cross from the right-sider picked out Osei, who was unable to clinch his hat-trick as he headed wide.

A second assist of the afternoon was provided by Hunter soon after, with Adams the beneficiary.

Shields worked the ball from left to right and Hunter beat his defender before delivering another tremendous cross which Adams headed past Shenton to effectively seal the points.

There could have been a third assist for Hunter when he found Hodgson in the next Mariners attack, but he was denied by Shenton.

Osei and Hodgson were then withdrawn as the fresh legs of Cedric Main and JJ Hooper were introduced to the fray.

Main proved to have an instant impact. He broke away down the right, twisted and turned his way past Sam Wedgbury and squared the ball to Adams, who rifled it into the top corner to match Osei’s tally for the afternoon and cap an impressive afternoon for the Mariners.

With just three matches remaining, every moment is now crucial in this exciting title race and an Easter weekend double-header could go a long way towards deciding the destination of the championship.

Shields kick-off a brace of fixtures in three days with a trip to FC United of Manchester next Saturday before hosting Whitby Town in their final home league match of the campaign.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Tee 75), Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Wilding, Briggs, Hodgson (Hooper 72), McGowan, Osei (Main 72). Subs not used: Rose, Jenkins.

Goals: Osei (18, 28), Adams (61, 73).

Attendance: 2,257.

Image: Kev Wilson.

More than £3,500 has been raised for the charity Cancer Connections after the South Shields community put its shirt on an exciting campaign.

South Shields FC’s limited edition community shirt, designed by Little Mix superstar Jade Thirlwall and North East illustrator and designer James Dixon, proved incredibly popular after its launch in October.

All of the Mariners’ profits from sales of the item are being donated to Cancer Connections, of which Jade – also the club’s honorary president – is a long-term supporter and patron.

A cheque for £3,637.37 was presented to the charity by Shields player-assistant manager Jon Shaw and captain Blair Adams on a special visit to the facility, based on Harton Lane in South Shields.

With the shirts – which celebrate some of the town’s most famous names and landmarks – still on sale, that figure is expected to rise in the weeks ahead.

Cancer Connections provides advice and support to cancer patients, carers and families with the aim of making the turbulent journey a little easier for everyone involved.

Charity manager Deborah Roberts said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be involved with South Shields FC, especially considering our patron Jade designed the shirt and has a big connection with the club.

“It has been a difficult two years for fundraising because of the pandemic, so to have a donation of this size is going to be a huge help.

“It’s a beautiful and memorable shirt which is meaningful to anyone who is connected to the town, and the community bought into it massively, far exceeding our expectations.

“We can’t do what we do without people supporting us and making contributions.

“It’s a whole community effort to help those who really need it and Cancer Connections belongs to the community.

“Without the support of brilliant organisations like South Shields Football Club, what we do wouldn’t be possible.”

The money raised for Cancer Connections will help the charity continue its invaluable services, including providing complimentary and vital therapies for cancer patients to give them and their families respite from the stresses of treatment.

South Shields FC player-assistant manager Jon Shaw said: “It was a pleasure to visit Cancer Connections and get a small insight into the incredible work they do.

“It truly is a fantastic facility and I can see why many people who use it describe it as a home from home, because that’s what it feels like.

“Our community shirt was warmly received by supporters and players, and to know that our fanbase came together to buy so many of them and support such a worthwhile charity at the same time is uplifting.

“It’s clear that the funds raised will go such a long way and help so many people in our community.”

The limited edition community shirts remain on sale at https://store.southshieldsfc.co.uk/.

Blair Adams has been named captain of the first-team, with Callum Ross assuming the role of vice-captain.

Adams had previously served as vice-captain under the captaincy of Robert Briggs, who will continue to be a vital member of the squad.

South Shields manager Graham Fenton said: “I’ve made the decision to change the captaincy of the first-team.

“Over the past few months, I’ve required the captain of the club to be at the training ground on a regular basis and due to Robert’s personal circumstances and work schedule, he has not been able to fulfil that responsibility.

“I felt that the decision we made to give Robbie the armband was the right one at that time as a natural progression from vice-captain to captain, but in hindsight it was possibly the wrong decision due to his availability for training on a daily basis.

“I’d like to thank Robbie for all the time, effort and professionalism he brought across the years in his roles as as vice-captain and captain.

“Making this change has been a really difficult decision but ultimately I feel that it’s the right one and that Robbie will still be able to show great leadership skills on and off the pitch moving forwards.

“Blair and Callum are able to commit to full-time training and will be here on a daily basis, so will be able to help pass on any messages we need to get across to the players.

“They both lead by example and are very popular members of the squad, and we wish them good luck in their new roles.”