South Shields opened up a 12 point lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division on a record-breaking and pulsating day at Mariners Park.

The Mariners defeated second-placed FC United 5-3 in a thrilling encounter in front of a crowd of 3,276, which broke the ground’s league attendance record.

It was a fully-deserved victory for Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side, who went ahead in the 21st minute as Jason Gilchrist found the net against his former club.

Shields’ first half dominance was rewarded with further goals in the latter stages of the half from Josh Gillies and Gilchrist, and they went into the half-time break with a huge amount of confidence.

FC United responded well in the early stages of the second half and pulled a goal back through the prolific Tunde Owolabi, only for Nathan Lowe to swiftly restore the three-goal advantage with a stunning drive from distance.

The end to the game was more fractured as the Mariners were forced to reshuffle three times because of injuries, with Owolabi adding two further goals to complete his hat-trick and give FC United some hope.

Between those strikes, though, Bali Mumba netted on his home debut for Shields to seal their victory and again boost their hopes of clinching promotion.

Full report to follow.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Baxter, Adams (Thompson 73), Shaw (c) (Ross 59), Verstraaten, Turnbull, Gillies, Briggs, Gilchrist (Mason 68), Lowe, Mumba. Subs not used: Jenkins, Gonzales.

Goals: Gilchrist (21, 45), Gillies (42), Lowe (52), Mumba (89).

Attendance: 3,274.

WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.

The club has taken note of Government, FA and league advice in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) ahead of Saturday’s game against FC United of Manchester at Mariners Park.

The BetVictor Northern Premier Division announced on Friday that all fixtures would take place as planned this weekend.

Proactive steps are being taken across the country in a bid to prevent the illness spreading.

South Shields Football Club is committed to adhering to whichever protocol is laid out, but we all have a role to play in limiting the spread of the illness.

Personal hygiene is key.

Several posters issuing advice on the coronavirus have been placed around Mariners Park ahead of Saturday’s match and they explain how serious the illness is and how likely you are to catch it.

Supporters are asked to follow the below guidance.

  • Wash hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gels if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straightaway and wash your hands afterwards – catch it, bin it, kill it
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are showing symptoms of coronavirus
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • There is a higher likelihood of severe illness the older you are (not an increased chance of contracting the virus), with those under 25 likely to be unaffected by the disease. However, there is no age-specific guidance at this moment in time.

Sports are asked to keep up to date with and follow Government and Public Health England guidance.

The key issues for hosting a sports event are:

  • PHE guidance should be read and followed
  • For those travelling to sporting events overseas or returning from overseas to sports events, the Foreign Office’s travel advice should be read and followed
  • Promote best practice for hygiene, ensuring cleaning is effective and soaps are provided (and sanitiser where possible)
  • Anyone with flu symptoms should avoid the risk of spreading their infection, whatever that infection may be, by staying at home and recovering
  • Clubs are advised that if any spectator presents to a club member of staff with possible flu-like symptoms they should be encouraged to leave, return home and call NHS 111 for further advice
  • For those hosting sporting events, whatever their size, attendees and participants should stay up to date on the government’s latest advice on how to avoid catching or spreading the virus

Those who feel unwell, as per Government advice released on Thursday, should self-isolate.

The Government has moved to the delay phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus and those with a “new, continuous” cough or high temperature are being advised to self-isolate for seven days.

Any supporter who is feeling unwell – particularly those with flu-type symptoms – is asked not to attend games.

The club will continue to monitor the national and local situation as further advice is issued in the coming days and weeks.

Please do what you can to assist us with this. After all, health is much more important than sport.

Saturday’s BetVictor Northern Premier Division match between South Shields and FC United of Manchester will go ahead as planned.

The NPL board met on Friday afternoon and decided that all games in the league would be played this weekend.

A statement from the league said: “The NPL board has decided that all games will go ahead this weekend.

“Further to our communication of yesterday regarding the Coronavirus crisis, and following the Premier League and EFL deciding to pause the season until April 9th, the NPL has today been in discussion with the National, Southern and Isthmian Leagues to try and agree a common approach, but this did not prove possible.

“The FA has today stated that it is each League’s decision as to what approach it wishes to take, so each league at Steps 3 and 4 will do what it believes best for its member clubs.

“Accordingly, and in common with the National League, the NPL’s board has decided that all matches will go ahead this weekend, with future fixtures being reviewed on Monday 16th March.

“Our primary concern, as always, is to protect the financial stability of our 62 clubs.  This means playing as many games as we can, so long as clubs wish to do so. This is not contrary to the League’s and clubs’ duty of care considerations to players, officials or supporters but, in a season where clubs have been severely impacted by weather-related postponements, the NPL board believes that pausing the season right now would prove disastrous for many clubs.

“The situation is changing daily, so our approach to Covid-19 must be flexible, recognising the very genuine concerns around the health of players, officials and supporters.

“The NPL has consistently urged clubs to follow government advice, which is that football matches should go ahead as planned for now. Having carefully weighed up all options, and mindful that we are between a rock and a hard place on this issue, all NPL matches will therefore go ahead as planned this weekend unless a club is directly affected by players, referees or volunteers who are self-isolating or have serious concerns.

“Clubs have been issued with further guidance and instruction.

“The NPL acknowledges this is not a decision that will meet with universal approval. Although our current stance may have to be reviewed as events escalate, it will be business as usual for as long as possible.”