David Foley scored four goals in a game for the second time this season as he helped South Shields to a convincing 6-2 win at Washington on Saturday.
The Mariners made it eight victories in a row – and 16 from their last 17 games – thanks to Foley’s strikes, as well as goals from Carl Finnigan and Michael Richardson.
The result kept Shields second in Northern League Division One, five points behind leaders North Shields with a game in hand.
They were all over Washington from almost the first whistle, with their first chance coming in the fourth minute, when Robert Briggs’ free-kick from the left took a touch off Foley and was well gathered by home goalkeeper Daniel Gladstone.
Shields had to wait just four more minutes to take the lead, though, and debutant Alex Nicholson – who was handed a start at right-back – was at the heart of it.
After collecting the ball on the right, he exchanged give-and-goes with Michael Richardson and Foley as he drove from the right to the left, and after making his way into the box, his cross was palmed by Gladstone into the path of Foley, who tapped home.
Foley was a constant danger to the home defence, and almost added goal number two when he was found on the right flank by a superb Julio Arca pass over the top. Foley ran at his defender before cutting inside and seeing an effort deflected into the side netting.
Washington were struggling to cope with relentless Mariners attacks, and they found themselves two goals behind when Foley again collected the ball on the inside-right of the box. This time he delivered an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Finnigan, who nodded into the bottom corner.
The hosts were mainly restricted to shots from distance, with Matty Waters twice hitting efforts over.
Their best opportunity of the first half fell to Gary Shaw, but he could only skew over from close range after being found by an impressive cross from left-back Paul Weldon.
At the other end, Gladstone was quick off his line to deny Shields on a number of occasions, one of which was when Nicholson played a superb through ball for Foley, who just could not nudge it beyond the goalkeeper.
Gladstone could do nothing to prevent the Mariners going three goals up in first half stoppage time, when Wayne Phillips played the ball into the feet of Richardson, who dribbled to the edge of the box before rifling it into the bottom corner.
Shields almost added another before the break when Foley was played in on the inside-left of the box, but after outpacing the defence, he sent his shot across goal narrowly wide.
Chances were harder to come by in the early stages of the second half, although one moment of excitement came when Arca released Foley down the left and he again outstripped the defence before cutting inside and seeing his shot held by Gladstone.
On 56 minutes, Gateshead loanee Adam Wrightson was introduced by Shields in what was the last game of his one-month loan spell. Again, he stood out.
Waters had another half-chance for Washington, but sent a half-volley just wide from 20 yards.
The main of the action was at the other end, though, and Briggs almost added another free-kick to his collection, only to curl it just over from 20 yards.
Jon Shaw was frustrated as he nodded past the post from a Richardson corner, but the fourth goal finally came with 16 minutes left when Wrightson motored down the right and then fired a ball across the box which was parried by Gladstone to Foley, who rifled it in via the crossbar for Shields’ 100th goal of the season in all competitions.
Mariners goalkeeper Liam Connell was called into action for the first time soon after, as he kept out a header by Waters.
Foley was in determined mood to grab a hat-trick at the other end, and he almost had it when he chipped just over from distance, with Gladstone well beaten.
He didn’t have to wait too much longer for his third, though, which came when a Connell goal kick beat the Washington defence. Foley got to the ball before Gladstone, flicked it past him and stroked into an empty net.
The home side pulled one goal back with four minutes remaining as Shields gave the ball away at the back, and Charlie Raby punished them by driving into the bottom corner.
Foley looked like he would have the final say soon after when he scored arguably the pick of the bunch, collecting an Anthony Callaghan throw-in just outside the box on the left before firing past Gladstone with a rasping shot.
However, the goalscoring was not done there, with the Mariners again losing possession in a dangerous area before Waters sent an impressive shot past Connell.
Shields thought they had added their seventh goal of the game in stoppage time, but Richardson’s celebrations were short-lived after he was ruled to have been offside when he turned the ball home following Gladstone’s parry from Wrightson.
It was an entertaining end to an exciting game, and the Mariners now are not in action again until Boxing Day, when they take on Penrith at Mariners Park in a 2pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson (Holden 71), Callaghan, Shaw, Baxter, Arca (c) (Smith 65), Briggs, Phillips, Finnigan (Wrightson 56), Richardson, Foley. Subs not used: Morse, Scroggins.
Goals: Foley (8, 74, 81, 88), Finnigan (14), Richardson (45+1).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields progressed to the fourth round of the Buildbase FA Vase after seeing off the challenge of a resilient Staveley Miners Welfare side at Mariners Park on Saturday.
Debutant Michael Richardson netted a first half brace before Robert Briggs wrapped up a deserved 3-0 victory with his 11th goal of the season with 15 minutes left.
Shields will find out their fourth round opponents when the draw is made on Monday lunchtime.
With loanee Adam Wrightson ineligible for the game, Richardson was given his first taste of action for the Mariners from the start.
Shields quickly took control of possession, but Staveley were game opponents and did well to restrict clear-cut opportunities in the opening stages.
Carl Finnigan had a header saved by visiting goalkeeper Lewis Naylor, and the closest the Mariners came early on was when the sharp David Foley cut inside from the right and fired a low shot just wide.
Staveley attacks were rare, but Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell was called into action when a quick break from the visitors led to a cross from the left which was headed goalwards by Steven Carty. Connell did well to hold the effort.
Shields started to gather momentum after that, with Dillon Morse going close to putting them in front when his header was brilliantly saved by Naylor with his feet.
Foley got in behind on the inside-left of the box soon after, but when he pulled the ball across goal, it went just behind his team-mates in the centre.
Julio Arca was the next to threaten, as he timed a run perfectly to get on the end of a free-kick from Briggs, but headed not far past the upright.
The breakthrough came on 25 minutes as Richardson netted.
Arca clipped a ball through the centre towards Finnigan, who did well to lay it off to Briggs just outside the box. His cross was half-cleared as far as Richardson, who rifled it into the bottom corner to start his Shields career in style.
The Mariners threatened to kill the game off in that period, with Foley seeing an effort deflected just wide, while he hit another shot not far off target before Shields had two big penalty appeals turned down following challenges on Richardson and Briggs in quick succession.
A counter-attack from the visitors led to another save by Connell from Carty, but it was mainly one-way traffic, with Foley getting in behind again, only to see Naylor push away his effort. The ball broke to Finnigan, who was denied by a block.
Although their first half performance had been strong, Shields looked set to go into the half-time break with some frustration having not extended their one-goal lead.
However, as the clock ticked onto 45 minutes, Richardson put that right.
Shields won the ball back in the opposition half and Richardson sprayed a pass through for Foley to run onto on the right of the box. He played the ball across the box, where Richardson had made a lung-busting run to meet it on the slide, and it bounced beyond the line via the post.
Less than a minute into the second half, Richardson almost completed a dream debut hat-trick after Arca played him in, but it was not to be as he curled not far wide.
Andrew Stephenson headed a presentable opportunity wide from a Briggs free-kick as Shields looked to put the game out of sight.
Out of nothing at the other end, substitute Tyla Bell struck the post for the visitors with a header, but less than a minute later, Richardson was again threatening goal number three.
This time it was an even better chance for his hat-trick as the ball broke to him after a Jon Shaw shot had been blocked, but he hit it just wide of the top corner from eight yards.
Staveley were not ready to exit the competition without a fight, and rallied, with Connell doing well to keep out a hooked effort from Kurtis Morley, while a scramble in the box led to the ball cannoning off the same player and going inches wide.
If that was a warning, Shields heeded it.
Briggs went close when his shot from the edge of the box took a deflection and was well saved by Naylor.
Finnigan also had a decent opportunity after Foley led a Shields break and found him, but he could only shoot over.
However, the victory was finally wrapped up with 15 minutes left.
Substitute Wayne Phillips beat his defender with some impressive skill on the left before getting to the byline and chipping in a superb cross which was chested down by Finnigan to Briggs, whose backheel was parried by Naylor. The ball bounced back off Briggs and into the bottom corner to delight the home support.
Finnigan went the closest to extending the lead further in the closing stages when he headed not far wide from a Briggs cross.
It was an impressive performance from Shields, who are now safely into the last 32 of the competition.
They return to Northern League Division One action on Friday, when they travel to Seaham Red Star for a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter (Holden 80), Carson, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Briggs (Smith 84), Stephenson (Phillips 73), Finnigan, Richardson, Foley. Subs not used: Parkin, Ramsey.
Goals: Richardson (25, 45), Briggs (75).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The club is delighted to announce the signing of attacking midfielder Michael Richardson from Blyth Spartans.
The former Newcastle United youngster, who was with the Magpies between 2010 and 2014, worked with Shields joint manager Lee Picton during his time as assistant boss at Croft Park.
He said: “I’ve had great experience working with Michael in the past, and I know what qualities he will bring to the football club.
“I’m sure the fans are going to enjoy watching him play for what we hope will be the years to come.
“He has bought into the vision of the club and what we’re trying to do long-term.
“I’m massively looking forward to getting Michael involved.”
Richardson made over 50 appearances for Blyth after joining in 2014, and was part of the side which reached the third round of the FA Cup in 2014-15.
It is hoped he will be available to make his South Shields debut in Saturday’s FA Vase third round tie with Staveley Miners Welfare.
Welcome to Mariners Park, Michael!
*Images courtesy of Blyth Spartans*