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 travel to Marske United for their latest pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 3pm and supporters are advised that no tickets will be sold at the turnstiles so please do not travel if you do not have a ticket.
A live stream of the game will provided at a cost of £2 per stream. Please click here to sign up and access it. The live stream is expected to start at about 2.45pm and pre-match will include an interview with Lee Picton.
Promoted South Shields strengthened their grip on top spot in Northern League Division One with a convincing win over Marske United on Tuesday.
Carl Finnigan scored a hat-trick as Shields moved beyond the 100-point mark with a 4-0 victory at Mariners Park.
Gavin Cogdon was also on the scoresheet in the Mariners’ 32nd victory in a row, which moved them three points clear of North Shields at the top of the table.
They could now clinch the title as early as Saturday, depending on the result of North Shields’ match with Morpeth Town on Wednesday.
Promotion to the Evo-Stik League was secured for the Mariners on Saturday, when they won 1-0 at North Shields.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made seven changes to the team which started that match, as they took on a fifth-placed Marske side who were expected to provide one of their toughest remaining challenges in the league.
Both sides had their good spells in the first half, with Marske going toe-to-toe with the Mariners.
The better opportunities fell the way of the home side, and Finnigan went close in the 11th minute when his strike from distance kept low and did not go far past the post.
Jon Shaw hit one into the side netting from the outside-right of the area, while David Foley went close when his cross deceived Marske goalkeeper Robert Dean and came back off the post.
Shields were playing with the wind at their backs, and went even closer just after the half-hour mark when a floated free-kick by Andrew Stephenson flicked off Finnigan and was hacked off the line.
Marske, though, almost took the lead when a clipped ball into the area fell the way of Andrew Ramsbottom, and with Shields defenders throwing their bodies in front of the ball, in the end it was goalkeeper Pete Jameson who saved the day with his foot.
Soon after, Peter Bulmer curled over after playing his way into some space in the box, and Marske looked set to make it a tricky evening for the hosts.
However, the Mariners responded strongly, and broke the deadlock in the 35th minute.
The impressive Alex Nicholson drilled in a delivery from the right which was nodded towards the bottom corner by Stephenson, and when Dean pushed it out, Finnigan was there to force it home for his 25th goal of the season.
At the other end, Danny Earl hit one narrowly wide from distance as the away side went in at the break behind in front of a tremendous crowd of 1,490.
Shields put in an excellent performance after the break to put Marske to the sword.
Finnigan went close within 20 seconds of the restart when Dean kept out his snap-shot, while Foley flashed an effort narrowly wide from just outside the box soon after.
Stephenson fired a decent chance over before Foley was presented with an even better opportunity when he was played in on goal, only for Dean to again make the save.
He was powerless to prevent Finnigan from eventually grabbing goal number two shortly before the hour mark, though.
Louis Storey drove forward in midfield and slotted the ball through to Foley, who ran at the defence and played it to Finnigan, and he made no mistake.
Jordan Blinco was another constant threat to the Marske defence, and he almost added his name to the scoresheet after being found by Storey not long after the restart, but his effort went wide.
Marske opportunities in the second half were rare, and their best spell saw shots from Craig Gott and Adam Wheatley go over and wide.
Shields turned on the style the longer the game went on, and had a number of good chances for the third goal.
A fine block denied Blinco, while Finnigan smashed an effort over the bar.
More excellent work from Blinco saw him beat his man on the left, bring the ball inside and then fire a shot which beat Dean, but also went past the post.
After more good possession and play, the hosts finally got their rewards in the closing stages.
The next goal came when Blinco got in on the right of the box and delivered a cross which was half-cleared to substitute Gavin Cogdon, whose controlled volley nestled in the bottom corner.
Barrie Smith and Cogdon went close before Finnigan completed his hat-trick a minute before the end.
It arrived when Stephenson’s effort from the edge of the box was parried by Dean, and Finnigan took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before finishing calmly.
It had ended up being a near-perfect night for the Mariners as they moved onto 101 points, with three league games left to play.
They could now win the title against Morpeth on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Nicholson (Baxter 83), Callaghan, Storey (Arca 60), Shaw (c), Lough, Smith, Stephenson, Blinco, Finnigan, Foley (Cogdon 73). Subs not used: Petrache, Phillips.
Goals: Finnigan (35, 58, 89), Cogdon (81).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.