South Shields made it eight home wins in a row as they produced a solid display to beat Stafford Rangers 2-0 in front of the highest crowd of the season at 1st Cloud Arena.

Goals in either half from JJ Hooper and Cedric Main ensured Shields took maximum points on Non-League Day to maintain the pressure on leaders Buxton at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

The game was watched by a tremendous gate of 2,676 after the club had earlier hosted iconic BBC show Football Focus as the Mariners were broadcast to the nation on a memorable day.

Stafford came into the game boasting the league’s best away record and chasing a play-off spot after a run of just one defeat in their previous 15 matches.

They created the first opportunity of the afternoon, but Jake Charles’ overhead kick was speculative and comfortably cleared the crossbar.

Jordan Hunter was prominent throughout the game on Shields’ right and he produced a fine cross on six minutes which was turned over by Hooper, a late addition to the starting line-up after Sam Hodgson was forced to withdraw through injury in the warm-up.

A better chance fell the way of Will McGowan when Stafford goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt dropped a cross from Blair Adams, but he was unable to find the target from 10 yards as the visitors breathed a huge sight of relief.

Rangers grew from there and had their best spell of the match.

Set-piece specialist Tom Tonks warmed the palms of Myles Boney with a free-kick from the left of the box, with the Mariners goalkeeper doing well to push the ball over the bar.

Tonks went even closer within two minutes of that when he was found by a Kaiman Anderson cutback and struck the base of the post before the ball cannoned against Hunter and behind for a corner.

A long throw by Tonks was then hooked over by James O’Neill as Stafford continued to pressure, but Shields stemmed the flow of Stafford attacks and added some impetus of their own.

A dangerous Hooper cross was awkwardly cleared by Andrew Burns and although there were strong home appeals for a penalty, the referee waved play on.

Ten minutes before half-time, the breakthrough arrived for the Mariners.

Darius Osei played the ball into McGowan and he showed nifty footwork to beat Joe Dunne and slip in Hooper, who took a touch and produced a clinical finish to put his side in front.

There were further chances at both ends in the remainder of the first half, but neither goalkeeper was tested before the sides returned to the dressing rooms as Tonks was off target at one end and Adams was likewise at the other.

Stafford went close to equalising less than eight minutes after the restart when Alex Fletcher’s free-kick from the left found Tre Pemberton, but Boney ensured the ball did not squeeze past him with a smart stop at his near post.

Shields continued to regularly find Hunter on the right and he threatened his first goal of the season after Robert Briggs picked him out with a fine ball. After cutting inside, though, he could only fire over.

Stafford had two attempts to level things up as the second half reached its midpoint, with a powerful drive by Charles held by Boney and Anderson shooting over after a twist and turn outside the area.

The decisive moment arrived in the 74th minute, though, as the Mariners doubled their lead to effectively make the points safe.

Osei got the ball under control 10 yards inside the Stafford half before looping it over the top for Main to run onto, and the substitute raced through before dinking the ball into the bottom corner with a fine piece of composure.

Stafford are a spirited side and searched for a route back into the game, albeit to no avail.

Anderson had a header saved by Boney while at the other end, Main had a shot blocked and Osei dragged an effort past the post.

The Mariners were determined to keep a clean sheet but did not have things all their own way as they were made to sweat for it in the final minutes.

Boney did well to beat away a cross from substitute Theo Bailey-Jones and Shields had to scramble a cross to safety in the immediate aftermath.

Bailey-Jones also had an attempt deflected over from a Fletcher corner while in the second minute of stoppage time, Boney produced a tremendous fingertip save to deny Fletcher as his shot arrowed towards the top corner.

Shields saw it out to claim an important three points and ensure the gap to leaders Buxton stayed at two points after the Bucks were 3-0 victors at Witton Albion.

The Mariners are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Gainsborough Trinity.

Kevin Phillips’ side have five league matches remaining as they chase the one available automatic promotion spot.

They are now seven points clear of Matlock Town and Scarborough Athletic in third and fourth respectively after those sides played out a 0-0 draw

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Kempster 79), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose (Wilding 64), Briggs, Hooper (Main 64), McGowan, Osei. Subs not used: Jenkins, Tee.

Goals: Hooper (35), Main (74).

Attendance: 2,676.

Image: Kev Wilson.

Sam Hodgson was at the double as Kevin Phillips’ first home game as South Shields manager was marked with an entertaining 3-1 win over Witton Albion.

In front of the biggest crowd so far this season at 1st Cloud Arena, relegation-threatened Witton frustrated their hosts in the early stages, quickly cancelling out Cedric Main’s opener.

Academy graduate Hodgson headed home nine minutes before half-time, though, and Shields did not look back. His second goal midway through the second half sealed the points and ensured the Mariners would go into Saturday’s clash with Matlock Town sitting just three points behind the league leaders.

There was one change to the team which won 2-1 at Warrington Town three days earlier, with Hodgson replacing the injured JJ Hooper.

An energetic start from the Mariners led to an early opportunity created by Blair Adams, who drove inside from the left and sent in a dangerous low ball which Robert Briggs narrowly failed to connect with.

Witton quickly established a footing in the game, though, and fired their first warning when the dangerous Jesse Dowling drifted inside from the left and had an effort deflected wide.

From the resulting corner, Briggs made an acrobatic goal-line clearance to keep it scoreless as Albion demonstrated just what a difficult encounter the home side had on their hands.

Despite those close shaves at the other end, it was Shields who opened the scoring on 10 minutes.

Nathan Lowe arrowed a 20 yard free-kick against the crossbar and with goalkeeper Greg Hall on the floor after his sprawling effort to save it, Main pounced on the rebound to drive the ball home and notch his second goal in as many games.

The lead proved to be short-lived for Shields, who conceded an equaliser on the quarter-hour mark as Witton debutant Dowling drove in a low free-kick from the left which found the net.

That punctured the momentum the hosts had begun to build but Phillips’ side eventually regained control and found it easier to limit their opponents’ opportunities as the first half progressed.

They went on to create further chances of their own, with Adams a particularly strong threat down the left. He again sent a teasing pass across the face of goal on the half-hour which just evaded a touch.

Shields restored their advantage six minutes later as Hodgson vindicated his selection with a well-taken goal, stooping to direct a Conor Tee free-kick into the bottom corner at the factory end.

It could have been 3-1 shortly after the restart, but Lowe’s goalbound effort was cleared after initially trickling past visiting goalkeeper Greg Hall.

Witton started the second half strongly and Dowling was at the heart of their first chance, tricking his way past two challenges and then firing a ball across the face of goal which no attacker was on hand to convert.

Another opening fell their way within a minute of that and this time it was Callum Saunders who provided the danger, controlling a lofted pass before trickling a shot just wide from 12 yards.

Shields’ first attempt of the second period was a piledriver from long range by Tee which drifted not far wide, but the hosts were soon indebted to goalkeeper Scott Moloney at the other end as he made a tremendous save with his feet to deny Saunders.

A third goal was the solution the Mariners craved, and it arrived in the 67th minute. Adams received the ball in an excellent position in the box and when his strike was parried, Hodgson was there to convert the rebound from close range to double his tally for the night.

There was another major boost soon after for Shields as Jordan Hunter was reintroduced for the first time since September after recovering from a broken arm. He received a rapturous reception from the home faithful.

The remainder of the match was controlled well by the Mariners, although opportunities to extend the lead were in short supply.

There was one for Jack Bodenham with four minutes left, but his overhead kick cleared the crossbar after Dillon Morse had headed on a Lowe corner.

Lowe went closer to adding a fourth as the game edged towards stoppage time when substitute Darius Osei pulled the ball back to him on the right of the area. His curled strike looked set for the top corner but drifted inches past the post.

A hat-trick goal for Hodgson would have capped a fine night but it was not to be as the Shields advantage remained at two.

The Mariners’ fourth successive victory sets them up nicely for Saturday’s eagerly awaited meeting with Matlock at 1st Cloud Arena.

South Shields: Moloney, Rose (Hunter 71), Adams (c), McGowan, Morse, Bodenham, Tee (Osei 69), Lowe, Hodgson, Briggs, Main (Kempster 76). Subs not used: Shaw, Jenkins.

Goals: Main (10), Hodgson (36, 67).

Attendance: 2,378.

Image: ID Event Photography/Craig McNair.

Kevin Phillips’ managerial career got off to a winning start as two goals inside a blistering first 16 minutes steered South Shields to a brilliant victory at Warrington Town on Saturday.

Dillon Morse and Cedric Main netted to hand the Mariners a two-goal advantage which was halved midway through the first half as the hosts attempted a comeback.

Shields stood firm, though, and held off some late Warrington pressure to climb to second in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

It was a difficult test for Phillips in his first game as a manager, with the Yellows having lost just one of their previous 14 league matches to climb to fifth in the table.

He made just one change to the Shields team which lined up against Radcliffe a week earlier, with Robert Briggs introduced in place of Will Jenkins.

A fast start was the order of the day and the Mariners delivered just that to quickly establish a smile on Phillips’ face.

Briggs and JJ Hooper were off target with early sighters of goal before Shields went in front on 13 minutes.

Nathan Lowe’s corner was hooked goalwards by Briggs and blocked before Hooper was also denied by a defender. This time the ball bounced to Morse and his header had enough power on it to beat home goalkeeper Daniel Atherton and get the Phillips era off and running.

One quickly became two when Main darted inside from the left channel and rifled a low strike which took a nick off a defender and flew past Atherton as the forward netted his first goal for the club.

It was a dream start and the Mariners almost established what might have been an unassailable advantage midway through the first half as Briggs was played in on goal and rounded Atherton, but just as he was about to find an empty net he was denied by a tremendous last-ditch tackle by Evan Gumbs which kept Warrington in the game.

That point was emphasised just three minutes later when the Yellows halved the deficit, with James Baillie’s scuffed effort from the right of the area prodded in by the lively Luke Duffy from close range.

The goal buoyed the home side and they threatened an equaliser when Jordan Buckley cut inside from the left, but his powerful shot from outside the box went wide.

Shields quickly re-established control and there were chances for Hooper and Briggs, whose strikes from 20 yards were narrowly off target.

At the other end, Duffy powered into the side netting after twisting and turning inside the area as the Mariners went into the half-time break with a deserved lead.

They could have gone further ahead in what was a bright start to the second half, but Briggs whipped a shot wide from the edge of the box, a cross-shot from Will McGowan was tipped wide by Atherton and Hooper curled narrowly past the post.

Shields were in control and their cause was aided with 16 minutes left when Warrington’s James Harris was sent off for two bookings.

However, the hosts threw caution to the wind in their search of a point and threatened with some direct play in the closing stages.

The closest they came was a sweet strike from 20 yards by Sean Williams which went just wide, but the Mariners held firm to see the game out and secure a third consecutive victory.

They will bid to maintain their momentum on Tuesday when they take on Witton Albion at 1st Cloud Arena.

South Shields: Moloney, Rose, Adams (c), McGowan, Morse, Bodenham, Tee, Lowe, Hooper (Osei 64), Briggs, Main (Kempster 78). Subs not used: Shaw, Jenkins, Hodgson.

Goals: Morse (13), Main (16).

Attendance: 1,024.

Image: Kev Wilson.