Northern League champions South Shields capped off a superb league campaign as they won 3-2 at Guisborough Town on Saturday.
The Mariners lifted the league trophy after the game, which they won thanks to goals from Jordan Blinco, Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan.
Despite a host of changes being made to the starting line-up, that didn’t seem to affect Shields as they ended the season on 108 points and set themselves up nicely for three cup finals.
For Guisborough, meanwhile, the defeat meant relegation to Northern League Division Two, barring a reprieve should only two teams be relegated as a result of the Mariners’ promotion.
However Saturday’s game went, a party atmosphere was a certainty as an estimated 750 travelling supporters descended on Guisborough, just four days after the Mariners had sealed the title.
For once, the result was not paramount, but with places in the team for the Durham Challenge Cup, League Cup and FA Vase finals up for grabs, there was never any danger of Shields taking their foot off the gas.
A line-up showing eight changes from the team which beat Ashington on Tuesday took just 100 seconds to take the lead.
Harrison Scott, making his debut at right-back, did well on the flank before playing the ball into the feet of Blinco. His lay-off was intercepted by home defender Matthew Lovatt, but the ball broke back to him and his first-time effort from 20 yards found its way under home goalkeeper James Dawson.
With Guisborough battling to avoid relegation, Shields’ early goal was never likely to kill their threat or desire, and they showed good spirit to force their way back into the game.
Ben Hugill had their first sight of goal, but his shot from the edge of the box was easily held by Pete Jameson.
Jameson was beaten on 14 minutes, though, as Guisborough equalised. A ball was floated in from the left by David Onions and the dangerous Steven Roberts nipped in behind to nudge the ball home.
On the rare occasions Shields have suffered adversity this season, they have generally responded swiftly, so it should have been no surprise to see them retake the lead less than three minutes later.
Anthony Callaghan brought the ball forward from the left and played it to Blinco, who showed good strength to hold off his marker before breaking free and finding Smith in space. The long-serving midfielder took a touch and then hammered a shot into the bottom corner from the inside-right of the box to break his duck for the season.
Roberts always looked the home side’s biggest threat, and he tested Jameson with a free-kick which had to be tipped over.
Shields became more and more dominant the longer the first half went on, and a number of good opportunities came and went.
Smith dragged a shot wide from 20 yards, Robert Briggs had a free-kick tipped over and then Darren Holden went the closest of all, firing an effort against the post as the Mariners tried to make their pressure count.
Blinco also went close before the break, but his low curler from outside the area went just past the post.
After half-time, things were more even as the Priorymen tried to secure Division One status.
They went close to equalising when Gary Wood found himself in space on the left of the box, but Jameson denied him with his feet.
Shields themselves almost scored when Blinco got in behind on the right and pulled the ball across the box for Finnigan, but Guisborough scrambled to safety and created a chance themselves on the counter-attack, with Louis Goldsack volleying over.
Onions also directed a decent opportunity wide, while Anthony Snook was unfortunate not to level the scores when his piledriver from 30 yards was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Jameson.
The Mariners were having to withstand some pressure, and responded by introducing David Foley from the bench. His pace would prove to have a decisive impact.
Within five minutes of his introduction, he had burst through on the right after being found by fellow substitute Michael Richardson, and when he played the ball low into the area, Finnigan made no mistake as it became 3-1.
That all but killed off Guisborough hopes, and Shields looked likely to add to the scoring before the end of the 90 minutes.
Foley hit an effort inches wide after again getting in behind on the right, while Finnigan had a header saved from a Briggs free-kick.
The hosts did not allow their heads to drop, though, and pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Goldsack met a cross from the right with his head, and diverted it beyond the reach of Jameson.
There was no time left for Guisborough to force their way back into contention, though, and the final whistle soon went to signal the end of a hugely successful league campaign for the Mariners.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Scott (Richardson 45+5), Callaghan, Briggs, Petrache (Lough 82), Storey, Smith (c), Holden, Finnigan, Stephenson, Blinco (Foley 71). Subs not used: Connell, Phillips.
Goals: Blinco (2), Smith (17), Finnigan (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields will be presented with the Northern League Division One championship after Saturday’s match at Guisborough Town.
The Mariners wrapped up their first-ever Northern League title with a game to spare by winning 4-1 at Ashington on Tuesday.
They will now get the chance to celebrate further when they lift the trophy on Saturday.
Northern League president George Courtney MBE, and league chairman Glenn Youngman will present it.
Mr Youngman said: “South Shields’ remarkable success comes after promotion, in a season when they’ve won 33 games, drawn six and lost just two with one game to go – including a 20-game unbeaten run in the league going back to November.”
The Mariners are set to be backed by a large travelling support at King George V Ground, with up to six coaches thought to be full for the trip.
Those still interested in a place on a coach are invited to call Westoe Travel on 0191 455 2292 to enquire whether there are any seats left.
Meanwhile, after the game, Mariners Park will be open – and the league trophy will be present – for supporters wishing to celebrate the team’s achievement.
Food will be laid on and we hope you can join us for the evening.
Admission for the Guisborough game – to be paid at the turnstiles – costs £6 for adults and £3 for concessions, while under-12s accompanied with a paying adult are free. The post code of the ground is TS14 6LE.
South Shields were dominant as they secured a third home win in a week with a crushing 6-0 beating of Guisborough Town on Saturday.
The Mariners were 3-0 up within a quarter of an hour against a Guisborough side currently sitting bottom of Northern League Division One, with two Robert Briggs goals sandwiching a strike from David Carson.
They pressed forward their advantage as Julio Arca and Carl Finnigan got on the scoresheet, before debutant Adam Wrightson finished it off when he netted just 10 minutes after being brought on.
It was a superb team performance from the Mariners as they consolidated their second position in the table, having been in control from the start.
Finnigan had a half-chance within the first two minutes, and although the visitors scrambled the ball to safety, it did not delay the opening goal by too long.
It arrived in the fifth minute as David Foley got to the byline on the left and delivered a good cross which Briggs headed into the top corner.
Shields were two up extremely quickly as Andrew Stephenson and Anthony Callaghan worked a short corner routine, and the former found Carson on the edge of the box before he took a shot which bounced in front of goalkeeper James Dawson and nestled in the bottom corner.
Opportunities for Guisborough were very limited, but Liam Connell was on hand to keep out the efforts which were on target.
Foley had a goal ruled out for offside before the Mariners effectively put the game to bed on 15 minutes.
It was a terrific team effort as Carson found Briggs on the edge of the box and he played an impressive give and go with Finnigan before touching the ball beyond a defender and then sliding it past Dawson for his 10th goal of the season.
Later in the first half, Dawson did well to deny Foley and Craig Baxter, before Shields were awarded a penalty when Danny Carson’s shot was charged down and was adjudged by the referee to have struck the hand of Guisborough’s Chris Youldon.
Arca’s spot-kick was parried by Dawson back into the path of the midfielder, and he made no mistake the second time as he tucked it home.
The one-way traffic continued, but Shields were unable to add further to their advantage in the remainder of the first half, with the closest they came when David Carson curled an effort not far wide from distance.
Teenage winger Wrightson – who joined on loan from Gateshead on the eve of the match – came on at the interval in place of David Carson, and immediately looked at home as he produced an energetic display.
He was involved in goal number five within four minutes of the restart as his pressing forced a mistake and Briggs then delivered a magnificent, firm ball through the centre for Finnigan, who controlled with his chest before slamming it into the bottom corner.
Wrightson got in on the act himself soon after when Stephenson took control of the ball on the edge of the box, waited for his team-mate to run beyond him into space and then found him, before the teenager hooked it in.
Shields were rampant and Briggs so nearly claimed his hat-trick when he ghosted past a defender and then saw his effort strike the post via a touch from the goalkeeper.
Foley was kept off the scoresheet by Dawson as he made a good save, while Briggs again went close to his third when he thrashed a shot narrowly over from the edge of the box.
In the end, the Mariners could not add to their six goals, but it remained an excellent afternoon for Graham Fenton and Lee Picton’s side as they kicked off the second half of their league campaign in style.
They are next in action next Saturday, when they take on Dunston UTS at Mariners Park from 3pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw (Smith 73), Danny Carson, Arca (c), Briggs, Stephenson, Finnigan (Phillips 61), David Carson (Wrightson 46), Foley. Subs not used: Riding, Ramsey.
Goals: Briggs (5, 15), David Carson (6), Arca (36), Finnigan (49), Wrightson (55).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.