Champions South Shields reached the 100-point mark for the third season in a row as a clinical display secured a 5-0 win over Kendal Town on Thursday.
The Mariners – who had already sealed the Evo-Stik North title two days earlier – demonstrated just why they had won the league in a superb first half performance.
Goals from Lee Mason, Graeme Armstrong, Carl Finnigan and an own goal by Paul Dawson put them four ahead before half-time, and Armstrong struck again towards the end to complete another thumping victory.
Kendal initially started the brighter of the two teams until Shields took the lead in the seventh minute.
Finnigan hit an effort from the edge of the box which former Mariners goalkeeper Josh Richardson pushed away, but Mason was on hand to sweep the ball home with a composed finish.
A visibly confident Mason had a chance to make it two soon after when he came inside from the left flank before firing a shot which was well blocked.
Within seconds of that, though, Shields did extend their advantage.
A wonderful flowing move led to Michael Richardson receiving the ball in some space on the right of the box, and his inch-perfect cross was powered in by the head of Armstrong from close range.
The third goal arrived on 26 minutes when Armstrong touched the ball through for Finnigan, and he took full advantage as he drove it into the bottom corner with a superb finish from just outside the area.
Shields were threatening to run riot as they celebrated their title win in front of their home fans.
Craig Baxter hit an effort over from distance and Louis Storey drilled an effort not far wide as they kept up the pressure.
The Mariners got their reward five minutes before half-time when Storey got in on the inside-right of the area before fizzing a ball into the danger area.
It cannoned against the unfortunate Dawson and into the corner of the net as the points were made well and truly safe.
With another game to come on Saturday, Shields were less potent after the break, with the team content to hold possession.
But they did find the net again 10 minutes before the end as a Robert Briggs corner from the left was headed in by Armstrong from six yards as he netted his fifth goal in three games.
Shields are at home to Colne on Saturday as they celebrate another superb season in front of what looks set to be a bumper Mariners Park crowd.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Lough (Holmes 46), Morse, Storey, Richardson, Briggs (c) (Juul 67), Armstrong, Finnigan, Mason (Smith 59). Subs not used: Lister, Sullivan.
Goals: Mason (7), Armstrong (10, 80), Finnigan (26), Dawson (own goal 40).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE:
South Shields secured a third successive league championship in style as they won 4-0 at Radcliffe to wrap up the Evo-Stik North Division title with two games to spare.
The Mariners moved onto an unassailable total of 97 points with a composed performance in difficult conditions at Stainton Park.
Gavin Cogdon headed them into the lead midway through the first half, and Michael Richardson doubled the advantage shortly after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men in the second period.
Darren Lough’s dismissal for two bookings soon after left both teams a man light, and although Radcliffe enjoyed a decent spell, Shields held firm and put their foot on the accelerator in the closing stages as substitute Graeme Armstrong scored a brace.
It was another superb win in a season which has been full of them as the Mariners were able to enjoy and celebrate another terrific achievement.
Their victory at Radcliffe was rarely in doubt, although the game itself was in question beforehand after heavy rain left the pitch sodden.
The officials passed the surface fit to play as Shields were given the chance to wrap up the title.
Carl Finnigan was played clean through on goal for the first of them, but clipped the ball wide, and when Michael Richardson was presented with a similar chance soon after, he was denied by a low save from home goalkeeper Connor Keane.
Gavin Cogdon was the next to go close, hammering an effort against a defender and then the crossbar as the Mariners continued to pressurise their opponents.
A number of further half-chances also came and went before Cogdon opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Finnigan sent in a terrific cross from the right and Cogdon stooped low to head it home and get the party started.
Shields – already assured of promotion – were unable to add to their tally before half-time, and saw their chances boosted two minutes into the second half when Radcliffe’s Rick Smith was given a straight red card for a poor challenge on Cogdon.
Cogdon and Robert Briggs both went close to extending the Mariners’ advantage.
But it was Richardson who would add their second as he controlled a Craig Baxter ball forward before brilliantly picking out the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The game turned slightly when Shields’ Darren Lough was sent off for a second yellow card 20 minutes before the end, and the hosts enjoyed their best spell.
Louis Myers hit the post and Liam Connell was forced into a number of saves as he did well to deny Jordan Boves, Myers and James Cooper.
Shields motored on again in the closing stages, and substitute Graeme Armstrong made it three when, after seeing his initial shot saved, he slid the ball home.
Armstrong was to have the final say, too, as he was played in on the right of the box before slotting it past Keane in front of the Mariners’ buoyant travelling supporters.
Shields are back in action on Thursday, with a party atmosphere sure to greet them at Mariners Park for the visit of Kendal Town.
They will complete their season with another home game, against Colne on Saturday.
The celebrations are only just beginning.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Storey, Pattison (Holmes 66), Briggs, Cogdon (Armstrong 55), Finnigan, Richardson. Subs not used: Ross, Juul, Sullivan.
Goals: Cogdon (23), Richardson (57), Armstrong (87, 90+1).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The champagne is on ice for South Shields – but a third consecutive title could be theirs on Tuesday.
The Mariners – who were promoted from the Evo-Stik North Division in midweek – battled to a 1-0 win at Skelmersdale United on Saturday.
But they missed out on the chance to celebrate the championship after title rivals Scarborough Athletic won 3-1 at Colne to seal promotion themselves.
Shields travel to Radcliffe on Tuesday, when they will wrap up the title with two games to spare should they claim another victory.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side had to show patience to get the better of second-bottom Skelmersdale, with substitute Graeme Armstrong netting the winner 14 minutes from the end.
It was a reward for the perseverance shown by the Mariners on a difficult surface at Prescot Cables’ Volair Park.
Shields quickly got on the front foot, with Gavin Cogdon and Carl Finnigan both going close with efforts in the early stages.
They were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring in the 16th minute when, after a superb move, a Matty Pattison shot which was destined for the bottom corner was somehow cleared off the line.
Home attacks were rare, although Josh Wardle did have a decent opportunity when he fired wide from just inside the area after a corner was half-cleared.
Shields added good pressure in the final stages of the first half, and almost took the lead when a cross from Craig Baxter met the head of Finnigan, who was denied by an excellent low save from Lee Callum Roberts in the Skelmersdale goal.
The Mariners were bright at the start of the second period, too, and the closest they came was when a Cogdon effort from distance took a big deflection before being clawed over the bar by Roberts.
An even better opportunity fell the way of Pattison when he was found eight yards out by a Michael Richardson cutback, but his effort flew over.
Shields suffered a blow when captain Julio Arca was forced off with a hamstring injury on the hour mark, but replacement Armstrong was to have a defining role in the victory.
It appeared that the Mariners were set for a frustrating afternoon until the 76th minute.
Baxter and Pattison produced some fine interplay on the right before the latter motored on and fizzed in a low cross which Armstrong flicked home to finally break the deadlock.
Both teams had chances in the remainder of the game, with Skelmersdale’s best opportunity falling the way of substitute Tunde Owolabi, who headed over from a corner.
Pattison and Aksel Juul could have wrapped it up for Shields, but just could not find a way past Roberts.
The Mariners had moved one step closer to the title. One more win will do it.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Storey, Morse, Arca (c) (Armstrong 61), Pattison, Briggs, Cogdon (Juul 78), Finnigan, Richardson (Holmes 75). Subs not used: Shaw, Sullivan.
Goal: Armstrong (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.