South Shields won the inaugural Puma Cup after scoring five times without reply in a superb second half performance at Ossett United on Saturday.
After the sides went in at half-time deadlocked, Jason Gilchrist and Nathan Lowe both netted twice after the break and Luke Daly completed the scoring for a dominant Shields.
The performance was arguably their best of pre-season as they completed their preparations for next Saturday’s season opener at Radcliffe.
Shields did not have things all their own way in an even first half, though, when they were also tested by difficult conditions and were playing against the wind.
Goalkeeper Myles Boney had to be alert early on to prevent Damian Reeves having a clear chance on goal, while at the other end, Ossett’s trialist goalkeeper got down well to keep out an effort from the edge of the box by Adam Thurston.
Boney did well to deny Luke Porritt as he let fly from just outside the area, and Jack Stockdill also went close for the home side as his free-kick struck the wall before bouncing narrowly past the post.
Lowe went similarly close at the other end for the Mariners before the away side created their best chance of the half.
Robert Briggs’ superb clip over the top beat the Ossett defence and found Josh Gillies, but the goalkeeper was out quickly to close the angle and make the save.
The trialist goalkeeper continued to make an impression when he palmed a Briggs free-kick from 25 yards over the bar, and he also pushed away a dangerous cross by Lowe which appeared destined to find the head of Gilchrist.
Shields were ruthless after half-time as they took the game to their hosts with real style.
They almost took the lead within two minutes of the restart as Gillies whipped in a free-kick from the right which was powerfully headed goalwards by Gary Brown, but a tremendous fingertip save denied him.
The Mariners did not have to wait too much longer for their breakthrough.
Daly received the ball on the right, beat his man and delivered a superb cross which Gilchrist struck into the back of the net with a first-time finish.
Shields won the ball back almost immediately from the restart and Lowe played in Gillies on the left of the area before continuing his run and finishing from close range when the return pass was slid across the box.
The Mariners were playing some sublime football and got their reward again when they carved Ossett open down the left and Gillies got in behind and played it across the area to Gilchrist, who made no mistake from point blank range.
Gilchrist played a major role in the fourth goal as he chased a seemingly lost cause into the corner, won the ball and played it inside to Lowe, who was clipped inside the penalty area.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Lowe comfortably beat the goalkeeper to score his second of the afternoon.
More scintillating play by Shields resulted in a fifth goal on 68 minutes, with Lowe playing the ball to the feet of Daly, who struck home from the edge of the area.
Ossett had opportunities to pull one back in the closing stages but the Mariners held firm to register a welcome clean sheet.
It’s now all eyes on next Saturday as they get their league campaign underway.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney (Connell 69), Brown (Charlton 66), Adams, Lowe, Morse (Lockey 72), Wokoma, Daly, Briggs (c) (Thompson 61), Gilchrist (Guy 69), Thurston (Alli 66), Gillies (Foley 61).
Goals: Gilchrist (49, 55), Lowe (50, pen 65), Daly (68).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Bob Scott.
South Shields bring their pre-season preparations to an end on Saturday when they travel to Yorkshire to take on Ossett United.
The Mariners have won their last two matches, scoring four goals against both Hebburn Town and Dunston.
But joint manager Lee Picton wants them to step up their level of performance against Ossett.
Shields will kick-off their Northern Premier League Premier Division campaign away to Radcliffe next Saturday.
Picton feels Saturday’s game will be a “relevant” test for his side.
He said: “There have been some mitigating circumstances with some of the things which have been disappointing for us in pre-season.
“I’ve never known a pre-season period where we’ve not been able to put anywhere near our strongest side out at any stage, which has been beyond our control.
“There’s no use crying or moaning about it, though.
“That situation has brought opportunities for some other players, which is great.
“Some players have taken their opportunities and some players haven’t.
“We’ve now got a week to fully prepare for game day number one on August 17.
“Those shirts are up for grabs, and I’m really looking forward to going to Ossett.
“It will be a really relevant test for us away from home and hopefully a few players will be back available for us.”
Shields were 2-1 behind at home to Dunston at half-time last Saturday before a second half turnaround saw them come out 4-2 winners, with Jason Gilchrist netting a hat-trick.
Picton wants his side to pick up where they left off on Saturday.
He added: “We were bitterly disappointed with the first half last Saturday.
“We’ve tried to put a positive spin on a lot of stuff over pre-season, but we have been disappointed with some things that have happened as well.
“We let people know about it at half-time last week and reminded people again after the game.
“The reaction we got in the second half was brilliant and hopefully that’s the start of us regaining that identity on the pitch.
“We’ve talked about building a culture a lot and sometimes you need something to spark that appreciation of what it is to be here at the club again.”
Shields are expected to welcome back goalkeeper Liam Connell on Saturday after he missed the previous three games while on holiday.
Craig Baxter remains missing as he recovers from a hernia operation, with Phil Turnbull also set to miss out because of holiday commitments.
Jon Shaw, Blair Adams, Josh Gillies, Myles Boney, Callum Guy and Lee Mason could all return in the 3pm kick-off.