South Shields returned to winning ways in style with a convincing 4-0 win over Ramsbottom United at Mariners Park on Saturday.
An own goal from Luke Thompson was added to by a strike from Louis Storey before half-time as the Mariners seized control of the game.
Carl Finnigan and Jamie Holmes also got themselves on the scoresheet in the second half as Shields recovered well from their 3-2 defeat at Bamber Bridge four days earlier.
The result kept them second in the Evo-Stik North Division.
Shields started Saturday’s game on the front foot, and went close in the first 20 seconds when Darren Lough advanced into the penalty area before seeing his cross turned away by goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
Ramsbottom possessed a threat of their own, though, and almost opened the scoring when Sam Madeley turned outside the box and rifled an effort which Liam Connell did well to save.
Connell made another fine low stop when sloppy play at the back by Shields let in Greg Daniels, whose shot was destined for the bottom corner.
The Mariners found the breakthrough in the 12th minute when Robert Briggs lofted a ball over the top towards Finnigan.
Thompson got to the ball first and sent it sailing past his own goalkeeper to the delight of much of the crowd of over 1,500.
Shields put their foot on the gas, with Lee Mason firing over before the second goal arrived midway through the first half.
Briggs was again at the heart of it, curling in a free-kick from the left which Jon Shaw headed against the bar.
The ball was kept alive and Ashton denied Holmes before it broke to Storey, who calmly tucked it away.
The Mariners were playing their way through at will at this stage and had numerous chances to make it three.
Mason and Finnigan both saw decent efforts saved, and Ashton also denied Shaw after he was picked out by a superb pass from Julio Arca.
The closest the visitors came to pulling a goal back before half-time was eight minutes before the break when a Jamie Rother free-kick was well held by Connell.
Shields struggled to get going at the start of the second half, although Finnigan did see an effort saved after being played in by Mason.
Connell, who was again in fine form, produced another impressive stop from Rother before the Mariners put the game to bed.
Finnigan received the ball on the left of the box, brought it inside and found the bottom corner, and with that the points were safe.
Gavin Cogdon was introduced from the bench and had an immediate impact as he ran in behind the defence on the right before pulling the ball across the area for Holmes, who brilliantly flicked it home to make it four.
Holmes and Finnigan both went close as Shields pushed for a fifth, and Briggs also had a free-kick saved by Ashton.
Chances continued to come and go in what was an entertaining match, and Ramsbottom had an opportunity to score a consolation when Rother was played in on the right, but he skied his effort.
Shields could have added a final bit of gloss to the scoreline in the 90th minute when good work from Cogdon led to fellow substitute Michael Richardson being played in, but he smashed his shot just past the post.
Cogdon also had a strong penalty appeal turned down a minute into stoppage time after he wriggled his way through, but the job was already done for Shields.
They continue their bid for a third successive promotion tomorrow when they host Ossett Town at Mariners Park. Kick-off is at 7.45pm, and admission is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Richardson 62), Storey, Briggs, Mason (Cogdon 59), Finnigan (Armstrong 75), Holmes. Subs not used: Woolston, Juul.
Goals: Thompson own goal (12), Storey (23), Finnigan (58), Holmes (61).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields battled to a 3-1 win at a snowy Glossop North End on Saturday as they ended a run of three weeks without a league game.
The Mariners had been left frustrated over recent weeks after a host of postponements stalled their bid for promotion from the Evo-Stik North Division.
They were in determined mood against Glossop, and opened the scoring in the second minute when Carl Finnigan flicked home his 21st goal of the season.
The hosts levelled just after the half hour mark, but within two minutes of that, Shields were ahead again as Jamie Holmes slid in a cross from Gavin Cogdon.
The points were sealed in the second half when Robert Briggs converted a penalty after an incident which saw Glossop goalscorer Benjamin Richardson sent off.
Snow blizzards and gusts of up to 45mph struck during the match at the Arthur Goldthorpe Stadium, providing difficulties for players and supporters alike.
The teams entered the pitch amid a heavy snow shower, and it was the Mariners who adapted to the conditions better in the early stages.
It took them less than 100 seconds to open the scoring when Darren Lough retrieved the ball on the left of the penalty area and sent it across the box, where Finnigan flicked it home to give the away side a perfect start.
With Gavin Cogdon back in the team after a lay-off with a hamstring injury, Shields looked threatening almost every time they attacked.
They almost made it a quickfire double when Holmes got in behind on the right, but goalkeeper Russell Saunders scrambled his shot behind for a corner.
Saunders also denied Louis Storey as the midfielder tried to convert from a tight angle, and Shields went even closer when Cogdon menacingly brought the ball inside from the right before striking an effort against the post.
Glossop started to gain a foothold in the game towards the half-hour mark, and when Darrhyl Mason got through on the inside-left of the area, Liam Connell had to be alert to make a smart stop.
A corner which followed soon after also saw the hosts go close when Courtney Meppen-Walter hit a shot which took a deflection and went narrowly wide.
The short period of pressure paid off when Glossop – with the wind at their backs – levelled as a ball across goal by Callum Spooner was converted from close range by Benjamin Richardson.
Shields’ response was instant, and within two minutes they had restored their advantage.
Cogdon was again central to things as he sprinted in behind on the right before squaring for Holmes, who forced the ball over the line with a sliding finish.
It could have been 3-1 soon after when Cogdon again cut in from the right, but this time he fired just past the post.
An even better opportunity fell the way of Finnigan six minutes before the break, but after Cogdon squared the ball from the right, he was unable to get clean contact on it and the chance went begging.
Shields almost paid for that in first half stoppage time when Richardson let fly from distance for the hosts, but Connell brilliantly tipped the ball over the bar to maintain his side’s lead.
The Mariners started the second half well, and almost went in front as Briggs’ ball forward took a deflection on its way through to Holmes, but Saunders did well to stretch out a leg and force the ball wide.
From the resulting corner, though, arguably the key moment of the game swung it decisively in Shields’ favour.
Briggs swung in the set-piece from the left and it was flicked on to Finnigan, who sent a header back towards goal.
Richardson tipped it over the bar with his hand, and after the referee spotted the infringement, he had no option other than to send off the Glossop goalscorer and award Shields a penalty.
Briggs sent Saunders the wrong way from the spot to all but wrap up the points.
The remainder of the game was a lesson in keep-ball from the Mariners as they conserved energy ahead of a hectic run of fixtures.
They had some opportunities to extend their advantage, but Storey, Graeme Armstrong and Briggs were all denied by Saunders, while at the other end, Connell saved from Spooner after a rare Glossop attack.
In all, it was a job well done for Shields as they remained two points behind leaders Hyde United, with three games in hand.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Pattison 77), Storey, Briggs, Cogdon (Armstrong 67), Finnigan (Mason 57), Holmes. Subs not used: Woolston, Ross.
Goals: Finnigan (2), Holmes (33), Briggs (pen 53).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields produced a hugely impressive display as they brushed aside promotion rivals Hyde United with a 3-0 win at a raucous Mariners Park.
Goals from Jamie Holmes, Graeme Armstrong and Dillon Morse secured a vital victory for the Mariners against a Hyde side which started the day just three points behind them.
The game was marred by a head injury suffered by Shields striker Carl Finnigan in the early stages, but his team-mates went on to do him proud with a fine performance in front of a crowd of 1,751.
Shields made three changes from the team which drew 0-0 against Tadcaster Albion four days earlier, with Craig Baxter, Robert Briggs and Holmes brought in.
It was a pressure game for the home side, who knew that a defeat would see Hyde leapfrog them in the table.
However, they showed no sign of nerves as they got on top from the early stages.
That was despite two early sighters of goal for Hyde, with Big Khamsuk sending an effort over from distance before a Jon Shaw clearance cannoned against the leg of Matthew Beadle and into the arms of a grateful Liam Connell.
At the other end, Finnigan was looking dangerous as Shields attempted to play him in. A Briggs through ball had just too much on it as goalkeeper Peter Crook came out well to gather.
Finnigan again raced onto a ball over the top soon after – this time from Julio Arca – but when he was beaten to it by Crook, the players collided and the Shields man came off worst, taking an accidental knee to the head.
After receiving eight minutes of treatment, he was stretchered off, leaving Shields without their two top goalscorers this season, with Gavin Cogdon also unavailable with a hamstring injury.
If anything, the sickening injury suffered by Finnigan appeared to inspire his team-mates left on the field.
Everything they did was with real purpose, and they got on top of their in-form opponents with a gutsy and determined display.
They threatened a breakthrough when Baxter delivered a decent ball on the right and Sunderland loanee Dan Wright chested it down before firing over.
The Mariners didn’t have to wait too much longer, though. Briggs played a short corner to Wright and received it back before swinging in a perfect delivery from the left which Holmes acrobatically and impressively headed in.
Shields were playing some terrific football despite kicking into a strong wind, and almost received a second reward when Baxter played the ball back to Briggs, whose effort was well blocked.
Hyde did have some opportunities in the remainder of the first half, with Tyrone Gay heading wide from a Janni Lipka free-kick, Connell punching over a Ross Daly cross-shot and Baxter doing well to block from Lipka.
In the second half, Shields took full advantage of having the wind behind their backs.
The visitors could have equalised when Matthew Beadle headed an inviting opportunity over the bar after a superb cross from Kyle Harrison.
That, though, was a rare chance for Hyde, and Shields went on to dominate.
Their advantage was doubled in the 62nd minute when Jon Shaw sent the ball downfield and Armstrong raced onto it before flicking the ball over Crook from 20 yards with a terrific finish.
It was Armstrong’s first goal at Mariners Park since arriving from Spennymoor Town, and his emotional celebration showed how much it meant to him.
Briggs went close to making it three, but Crook clawed his powerful free-kick away from the top corner.
The ground was now rocking as the crowd of over 1,750 got behind their team, and they were rewarded when the game was effectively put to bed in the 68th minute.
Louis Storey’s hook into the box came back off the crossbar but was retrieved by Holmes, who sent the ball back across the area and into the path of Morse, who hooked it over the line.
Shields’ victory was all but secured, and they were able to enjoy the closing stages.
Connell even almost got on the scoresheet when, invited to shoot by the crowd, he hit a free-kick from halfway inside his own half and it caught the wind before being pushed away by a frantic Crook.
Julio Arca was in typically fine form as he pulled the strings in midfield, and some great skill by the Shields captain helped to set up another chance for Armstrong.
Ultimately, it was Wright’s through ball which put the striker in on goal, but this time Crook was not to be beaten.
There were a number of chances for the Mariners to make it 4-0, and Armstrong could have netted from his own half with Crook well off his line, but the ball went wide.
It was a vital win for the Mariners as they stayed one point clear at the top.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Finnigan (Armstrong 15), Wright (Richardson 84), Holmes (Juul 86). Subs not used: Woolston, Scott.
Goals: Holmes (23), Armstrong (58), Morse (68).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.