South Shields returned to winning ways in style with a convincing 4-0 win over Ramsbottom United at Mariners Park on Saturday.
An own goal from Luke Thompson was added to by a strike from Louis Storey before half-time as the Mariners seized control of the game.
Carl Finnigan and Jamie Holmes also got themselves on the scoresheet in the second half as Shields recovered well from their 3-2 defeat at Bamber Bridge four days earlier.
The result kept them second in the Evo-Stik North Division.
Shields started Saturday’s game on the front foot, and went close in the first 20 seconds when Darren Lough advanced into the penalty area before seeing his cross turned away by goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
Ramsbottom possessed a threat of their own, though, and almost opened the scoring when Sam Madeley turned outside the box and rifled an effort which Liam Connell did well to save.
Connell made another fine low stop when sloppy play at the back by Shields let in Greg Daniels, whose shot was destined for the bottom corner.
The Mariners found the breakthrough in the 12th minute when Robert Briggs lofted a ball over the top towards Finnigan.
Thompson got to the ball first and sent it sailing past his own goalkeeper to the delight of much of the crowd of over 1,500.
Shields put their foot on the gas, with Lee Mason firing over before the second goal arrived midway through the first half.
Briggs was again at the heart of it, curling in a free-kick from the left which Jon Shaw headed against the bar.
The ball was kept alive and Ashton denied Holmes before it broke to Storey, who calmly tucked it away.
The Mariners were playing their way through at will at this stage and had numerous chances to make it three.
Mason and Finnigan both saw decent efforts saved, and Ashton also denied Shaw after he was picked out by a superb pass from Julio Arca.
The closest the visitors came to pulling a goal back before half-time was eight minutes before the break when a Jamie Rother free-kick was well held by Connell.
Shields struggled to get going at the start of the second half, although Finnigan did see an effort saved after being played in by Mason.
Connell, who was again in fine form, produced another impressive stop from Rother before the Mariners put the game to bed.
Finnigan received the ball on the left of the box, brought it inside and found the bottom corner, and with that the points were safe.
Gavin Cogdon was introduced from the bench and had an immediate impact as he ran in behind the defence on the right before pulling the ball across the area for Holmes, who brilliantly flicked it home to make it four.
Holmes and Finnigan both went close as Shields pushed for a fifth, and Briggs also had a free-kick saved by Ashton.
Chances continued to come and go in what was an entertaining match, and Ramsbottom had an opportunity to score a consolation when Rother was played in on the right, but he skied his effort.
Shields could have added a final bit of gloss to the scoreline in the 90th minute when good work from Cogdon led to fellow substitute Michael Richardson being played in, but he smashed his shot just past the post.
Cogdon also had a strong penalty appeal turned down a minute into stoppage time after he wriggled his way through, but the job was already done for Shields.
They continue their bid for a third successive promotion tomorrow when they host Ossett Town at Mariners Park. Kick-off is at 7.45pm, and admission is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Richardson 62), Storey, Briggs, Mason (Cogdon 59), Finnigan (Armstrong 75), Holmes. Subs not used: Woolston, Juul.
Goals: Thompson own goal (12), Storey (23), Finnigan (58), Holmes (61).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields are set to play their first home game in a month when they take on Ramsbottom United at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The Mariners, who are second in the Evo-Stik North Division heading into the match, will be looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat at Bamber Bridge.
They will also be hoping to return to winning ways on home soil, having drawn 0-0 with Radcliffe in their last outing at Mariners Park.
With two games in hand on leaders Hyde United, and sitting just two points behind them, Shields’ destiny remains in their own hands.
Joint manager Lee Picton has urged his side to keep it that way.
He said: “We’ve got to dust ourselves down from Tuesday’s game and go again.
“We’ve got a run of a few home games now, and we’ve got to really gather some momentum over the next three or four games, which we’re confident we can do.
“There have been some pleasing aspects of the last couple of games, and we’ve got to build on those and learn from the mistakes we made on Tuesday.
“You can’t control what goes on elsewhere, but we’ve got 12 games left, and if we can win 10 of those, unless something extraordinary happens I think we’ll win the league. It’s in our own hands.
“We’re still in the position that everybody else would like to be in, and we’ve got to bounce back from the disappointment of Tuesday.”
Shields won 3-2 at 15th-placed Ramsbottom in the reverse fixture between the sides in December.
They will again be without Anthony Callaghan (back) at Mariners Park, with Barrie Smith (hamstring), Michael Richardson and Alex Nicholson (both back) also expected to miss out.
Kick-off is at 3pm, and admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
Happy Hours will be in operation in the bars between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, and between 5.30pm and 6.30pm.
South Shields stretched their lead at the top of the table to four points as they got the better of Ramsbottom United in a tough encounter on Saturday.
The Mariners won 3-2 in Lancashire in a match which became nervy in the latter stages as they moved onto the 40-point mark after 15 games.
Ramsbottom twice halved a two-goal deficit in the second half, but strikes from Louis Storey, Jamie Holmes and Carl Finnigan proved to be enough for Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side.
Shields were missing several first-team regulars, with the likes of Julio Arca, Anthony Callaghan, Darren Lough, Michael Richardson and Gavin Cogdon unavailable.
Striker Graeme Armstrong started just a day after completing a move to the club from Spennymoor Town, and he battled well as he helped his new team to maximum points.
The Mariners started strongly, and their first sights of goal saw Robert Briggs twice denied by blocks.
He was to play a key role in the opener, which arrived in the 14th minute, as his free-kick from the left was nodded towards goal by Dillon Morse and prodded in from close range by Storey.
Ramsbottom struggled to make an impact at the top end of the pitch in the early stages, but Philip Dean tested Liam Connell with a low effort from the edge of the box which took an awkward bounce.
It was a testing playing surface for both teams to cope with, but the Mariners rolled up their sleeves to take control.
They went close to doubling their advantage just after the half-hour mark after some superb play by Holmes as he dribbled past a number of players before the ball was worked to Andrew Stephenson, who struck the foot of the post with a shot across goal.
The hosts could have equalised shortly afterwards as they countered from a Shields corner.
Connell was beaten in a foot race with Dean on the left and was left stranded, but the Ramsbottom midfielder’s pass across the box was well cut out by makeshift left-back Matty Pattison.
Outfield player Ben Richardson was forced to go in goal for the home side late in the first half when goalkeeper Danny Taberner was forced off with an injury.
He performed well, but was beaten by an Armstrong header which went past the post in the 43rd minute.
Shields’ second goal arrived seven minutes into the second half when Briggs picked out Stephenson on the right and his excellent delivery was chested down by Holmes, who then hit an effort which struck defender Jacques Kpohomouh before finding the net.
Holmes had an excellent game and almost scored again when he smashed an effort towards a sea of bodies which Richardson managed to push to safety.
Ramsbottom were given a route back into the game when an impressive cross from the left was headed in by substitute Sam Heathcoate in the 64th minute.
But it took just nine minutes for Shields’ two-goal advantage to be restored as Briggs played a superb ball to Finnigan, who got it out of his feet before beating Richardson with a calm finish.
Holmes continued to be a thorn in the hosts’ side, and could have made it four when he beat two defenders with some great skill and fired just over.
Heathcoate again gave Ramsbottom a lifeline when he was found by a defence-splitting pass and then hit a first-time finish to beat Connell.
Despite some nervy moments in the Shields penalty area, though, Connell would not be beaten again as an important three points were claimed by the Mariners.
They are next in action on Saturday, with Tadcaster Albion the visitors to Mariners Park for another league game.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Pattison, Shaw (c), Morse, Storey, Stephenson (Scott 65), Briggs, Armstrong (Sullivan 79), Finnigan, Holmes. Subs not used: Norton, Smith, Guy.
Goals: Storey (14), Holmes (52), Finnigan (73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.