South Shields returned to winning ways in convincing fashion as they got the better of Bamber Bridge on an entertaining afternoon at 1st Cloud Arena.

A stunning long-range strike by Mitch Rose set the Mariners on their way and the confidence was flowing when Will McGowan slid in a second on 25 minutes.

Darius Osei made it three just after the hour mark and although the Brig pulled one back, Shields soon stretched their lead again when Sam Hodgson notched to effectively make the points safe.

Mark Yeates’ stoppage time consolation for the visitors completed the scoring but the majority of the 2,173 crowd went home happy as Shields reduced Buxton’s lead at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League to two points.

Hodgson and Robert Briggs replaced JJ Hooper and the injured Cedric Main as Kevin Phillips made two changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Lancaster City in midweek.

There was an early opportunity when Osei headed narrowly wide from a McGowan corner and the breakthrough took just 13 minutes to arrive.

McGowan was again the provider as Shields won the ball high up the pitch and the midfielder laid it off, but this goal was all about Rose as he took a touch 25 yards from goal before rifling it past the despairing Matthew Hudson with one of the best strikes of the season.

The Mariners had started the game superbly and Osei was looking particularly electric. He threatened to make it two when he beat his man with a smart turn before breaking into the area and firing a low effort which Hudson clung onto at the second attempt.

Shields did get the second goal their play deserved when Dillon Morse caressed a terrific pass over the top from the halfway line on the right which McGowan controlled on his chest, took a touch and then slotted under Hudson with a clinical finish.

Osei was kept off the scoresheet as a Briggs header found him 20 yards from goal and with Hudson advancing, the goalkeeper beat away what was a long-range header from the frontman.

The home side’s best opportunity for a third before half-time was wonderfully created and culminated when Osei and Briggs combined to release Blair Adams into the box, but the left-back’s low strike from 10 yards flashed just past the opposite post.

There was also an effort from distance from McGowan which curled narrowly wide but Shields took good momentum into the interval as they aimed to come back out and make the points safe.

There were some half-chances for the visitors to gain a foothold early in the second half. A free-kick from Paul Dawson was deflected comfortably wide and Matthew Thompson blazed over from the edge of the box, with Shields also throwing bodies on the line to produce blocks from Fin Sinclair-Smith and Thompson.

Substitute Yeates had a shot deflected wide, too, but the most incisive play came from the Mariners when they needed it most just after the hour mark.

Jon Shaw cleared from a corner and Hodgson’s strong hold-up play saw the ball break to Osei, who took a touch on the halfway line to sprint clear of the Brig defence before racing through on goal and showing impressive composure to pick out the bottom corner and puncture any momentum the visitors had been building.

Adams sent a half-volley over as Shields aimed to stretch their lead even further and there were more chances, with Osei having a deflected shot saved and the same player firing narrowly wide from the edge of the box as the hosts continued to purr.

There was a glimmer of hope for Brig when Dawson converted a penalty after Shaw had been adjudged to have committed a foul in the area, but the Mariners were quickly on the front foot again and almost immediately restored their three-goal advantage, only for substitute Will Jenkin’s low strike to be kicked away by Hudson.

Shields did add a fourth 12 minutes from the end as Hodgson deservedly etched his name onto the scoresheet with a first-time finish from a teasing low cross by Adams.

The final word ultimately went to the away side when Yeates fired in a free-kick from the edge of the box a minute into stoppage time, but the points had long since been sealed by the Mariners as they continued their impressive home form and closed the gap at the top.

They are back in action next Saturday when they take on Stafford Rangers at 1st Cloud Arena.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose (Jenkins 55), Briggs, Hodgson, McGowan (Tee 80), Osei (Hooper 80). Subs not used: Kempster, Lowe.

Goals: Rose (13), McGowan (25), Osei (61), Hodgson (78).

Attendance: 2,173.

Image: Kev Wilson.

Kevin Phillips has praised Sam Hodgson for providing him with a welcome selection headache following his two goals in Tuesday’s win over Witton Albion.

Hodgson’s brace proved decisive in the 3-1 win as he marked his first league start of the season in fine fashion.

The 20-year-old is certainly Phillips’ thoughts heading into Saturday’s significant clash with league leaders Matlock Town, with his attitude in particular impressing the manager.

Phillips said: “When you give a player an opportunity, you want them to give you a problem.

“Sam’s attitude has been excellent since I came through the door.

“He came to see me on my first day and told me he wants to play and is ready to play, which is great from my point of view.

“I told him he had to be patient and that when he gets an opportunity, he has to take it.

“He did that on Tuesday so he has given me a headache.

“I was delighted for him. He was in the right place at the right time and there are certain things he could have done better but he’s a young kid and he’s learning, so I was naturally delighted with him.”

Another player firmly in contention is Jordan Hunter, who made his return from a broken arm as a second half substitute in midweek.

Hunter had been out of action since September.

Phillips added: “The kid is itching to play and is another one who came to see me straightaway.

“I’ve got a bit headache now for the weekend and it’s great to have that.

“Jordan is a quality player with loads of energy.

“Mitch (Rose) also did very well so it’s a problem I’ve got to deal with and I’ll certainly do that.

“We’re delighted to see Jordan back and it’s clear he loves football, so I’m really pleased for him.”