Alex Kempster caught the eye with a second half brace as South Shields won for the second time in pre-season at Marske United on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, the Mariners scored four of the five goals netted after the break on a blustery August afternoon at Mount Pleasant.
Josh Gillies and Jason Gilchrist also found the net for the first time in pre-season as Shields secured a confidence-boosting result to step up their preparations for the new campaign.
The flurry of second half goals was in stark contrast to what had been seen before half-time, when chances had been few and far between.
Gilchrist tested home goalkeeper Ryan Catterick with a firm strike from the edge of the box and Will McCamley also forced a save from him, but there had been little quality shown in the final third at either end of the pitch.
That all changed in the second 45 minutes as Shields returned to the field with the bit between their teeth.
Half-time substitute Will Jenkins saw his half-volley palmed behind by Catterick and the resulting corner from Gillies bounced in the six-yard box before crossing the line, with the whip on the low delivery enough to deceive Catterick.
Marske’s response to falling behind was impressive, and after Curtis Round and Jack Blackford had drawn saves from Myles Boney, the hosts were awarded a penalty when Gary Brown tripped Louis Johnson.
Craig Gott sent Boney the wrong way from the spot to equalise as the game burst into life.
The home side had opportunities to go in front, most notably when a corner was caught by the wind and struck the crossbar, but it was to be Shields who dealt the next decisive blow.
Gillies picked out Kempster 25 yards from goal and he turned his man superbly before angling an effort into the corner of the net with his left foot.
It was Kempster’s first goal since joining Shields from York City in the summer and there was more yet to come.
He almost added a stunning second when he got on the end of a ball forward by Boney, flicked it over the defender with his head and sent a delicate lob just over, but he didn’t have too much longer to wait.
Gilchrist laid the ball off to him on the edge of the box and another pinpoint left-foot effort nestled in the bottom corner to double Shields’ advantage.
Gilchrist got in on the act himself towards the end when Robert Briggs found him with a brilliant pass over the top and he rounded Catterick before finishing with ease.
A further goal narrowly eluded Gilchrist as he fizzed a shot just past the post, with Shields’ new-found dominance continuing until the end.
The Mariners are back in action on Saturday when they take on Blyth Spartans at 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter (Hunter 62), Adams (Croft 83), Ross (Thompson 71), Morse (Verstraaten 46), Brown (Lockey 83), McCamley (Jenkins 46), Briggs (c), Gilchrist, Gillies, Kempster. Sub not used: Hodgson.
Goals: Gillies (51), Kempster (62, 76), Gilchrist (80).
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).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields came from behind to move six points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves in a difficult position when substitute Alistair Waddecar fired the hosts ahead with a well-taken goal just before half-time.
They had to show tremendous battling and technical qualities after the break to force their way back on level terms, with Josh Gillies delivering the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Jason Gilchrist headed in what proved to be the winner 16 minutes from the end as the Mariners maintained their tremendous away form and strengthened their hopes of promotion ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Nantwich Town.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made just one change to the side which won 4-1 at Gainsborough Trinity the previous weekend, with Gillies introduced in place of the departed Dom McHale.
The start to the game was relatively even, with neither side seriously threatening an opening goal until Gillies crashed a 25 yard free-kick against the crossbar on 20 minutes and the rebound from Darius Osei was hacked clear.
Shields sensed an opening and attacked their hosts again less than a minute later as Osei beat his man down the left of the box before drilling a low effort which goalkeeper Michael Crowe did well to save with his feet.
Myles Boney was untroubled in the Mariners’ goal until six minutes before half-time when he saved from Waddecar before a further shot from the same player was deflected wide.
Bamber Bridge were beginning to seize control of possession and at that stage Shields would have settled for going in at the break goalless, but that prospect was taken away from them when a long ball from Crowe was collected by Waddecar on the left channel and he swivelled before brilliantly clipping an effort home from a tight angle.
Brig picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and had a golden opportunity to double their lead less than a minute after the restart, but Chris Marlow volleyed wide when well placed in the box.
The home side were even more energetic than they had been in the first half but Shields gained a foothold and had their first chance of an equaliser when Nathan Lowe slipped a ball through to Gilchrist and he was twice denied by blocks from Crowe.
The Mariners thought they had equalised in the 55th minute when Dillon Morse headed in but the offside flag cut short the celebrations, and Shields felt hard done by again when a cross by Gillies appeared to strike the arm of a defender but no penalty was given.
Despite that frustration there was a sense that a goal was on its way, and it duly arrived on 61 minutes.
Blair Adams, Gillies and Gilchrist combined before Phil Turnbull beat his man on the left flank and sent in a cross which bounced in the danger zone and was chested down by Gillies, who turned the ball past Crowe with his second touch.
Shields continued the momentum and found what proved to be the winning goal 16 minutes before the end.
Morse sent Osei scampering down the left with a controlled pass from the back and the forward impressively beat a defender before firing in a cross which Gilchrist was on hand to head home from close range.
The Mariners expected a response from Brig and got it, with Jon Shaw forced to block a shot from Sheldon Green and Myles Boney having to claim more than one dangerous cross into the area.
The introduction of Bali Mumba for his debut injected even more energy and excitement into Shields, though, and he almost wrapped things up in stoppage time when he breezed past a defender before firing into the side netting.
A third goal was ultimately not required as the Mariners extended their advantage at the top ahead of Tuesday’s trip to another promotion contender, Nantwich Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull (Briggs 65), Baxter (Verstraaten 62), Lowe, Gilchrist (Mumba 80), Osei, Gillies. Subs not used: Brown, Ross.
Goals: Gillies (61), Gilchrist (74).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.