South Shields joint manager Lee Picton heaped praise on the huge travelling support after over 500 Mariners cheered their team to a 3-1 Bank Holiday Monday victory at Scarborough Athletic.
A brace from Luke Sullivan and one from Matty Pattison secured the points for Shields as they continued their 100% start to life in EVO-STIK North.
The game between the league’s early top two attracted a crowd of 1,667 at Flamingo Land Stadium, with a superb atmosphere generated by both sets of supporters.
At the end of the match, Shields’ players and staff showed their appreciation for the terrific and vocal support they had been given throughout.
Picton said: “We had to do that, when hundreds and hundreds of fans had taken time out of their Bank Holiday weekend and spent their money to come down and support the team.
“It really is absolutely heart-warming and uplifting.
“The lads really appreciated the support and we made a point of making sure that was recognised at the end of the game.”
Picton also had praise for the organisation of the staff at Flamingo Land Stadium, and the way Boro kept going at 3-1 and a man down in the second half.
He added: “We worked them really hard, but they kept going right until the end and created a couple of chances in the closing stages.
“They’ve got a very defined gameplan and use Jimmy Beadle very well at the top end, getting players in and around him, which caused us some problems at times.
“I’m sure they’ll cause every other team in the league problems.
“The welcome we were given at the ground, and the organisation, was top-class.
“Congratulations to Scarborough for doing things really well on that side.”
Watch Picton’s full interview at the top of this page.
Luke Sullivan struck twice as South Shields maintained their perfect start to life in the Northern Premier League with a comfortable 3-1 win at Scarborough Athletic.
Matty Pattison opened the scoring for the Mariners within the first seven minutes, and when Sullivan made it two on the quarter-hour mark, they were well on their way.
Boro – who are expected to be one of Shields’ main rivals in the promotion race this season – pulled a goal back almost immediately.
However, their chances became limited when winger Max Wright was given a straight red card for kicking the ball into the crowd, hitting a Mariners fan in the face.
Sullivan grabbed a deserved second after the break to send an away support numbering well over 500 home in good spirits.
Shields have now won four games out of four in EVO-STIK North following promotion from the Northern League.
This was tipped to be their toughest challenge yet against a buoyant Scarborough who have just returned to the town following a 10-year exile.
The Mariners came out of the blocks quickly, though, and took the lead in the seventh minute.
Sullivan chased what looked to be a lost cause on the inside-left of the area and forced a home defender into a mistake, before dispossessing him and playing it inside for Pattison.
He took a touch to steady himself before slotting home for his third goal in five games for the Mariners.
Shields went further ahead on 15 minutes, with Pattison’s deep corner from the right headed against the post by Darren Lough, before Sullivan snapped up the rebound as he nodded in.
Scarborough’s riposte was immediate, with Nathan Valentine firing past Liam Connell after a low ball from the left.
It was turning into a great spectacle for the crowd of 1,667 at Flamingo Land Stadium, with chances at both ends.
The best of them fell the way of Sullivan, who hit the bar from close range after connecting with a cross from Jon Shaw.
Then came the main talking point as Wright, in frustration, kicked the ball off the pitch and into the face of a Shields supporter, who required some treatment. Wright was given his marching orders.
The Mariners kept the ball well in the second half as they made the most of their man advantage, and all but wrapped up the points on 52 minutes.
A chipped ball forward by Dillon Morse was chested past a defender by Sullivan, before he rifled home to grab a deserved second of the game.
Pattison saw a free-kick palmed wide, while Robert Briggs had a great chance to make it four when he was played in by substitute Michael Richardson, but screwed his effort past the post.
Boro’s best spell came in the closing minutes, but they couldn’t find a way past Connell, who tipped over a header from Billy Logan to ensure there was no grandstand finish.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Briggs, Smith, Cogdon (Holmes 68), Pattison (Richardson 66), Sullivan (Nicholson 85). Subs not used: Norton, Callaghan.
Goals: Pattison (7), Sullivan (15, 52).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Midfielder Julio Arca is set to return to training tonight (Tuesday) as he hands South Shields a boost ahead of an important double-header this weekend.
Arca has been visiting family in Argentina since mid-July, but is expected to be available for the games against Bamber Bridge on Saturday and Scarborough Athletic on Monday.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough favourite will face a battle for his place, of course, with the Mariners having started the campaign with three consecutive victories.
However, joint manager Lee Picton is delighted to have him back in the fold, just days after fellow key player Gavin Cogdon also returned from holiday.
Picton said: “We’re three games into the season and have won all three, but still feel there is much yet to come.
“We’ve still got a lot of lads in the dressing room who aren’t 100% fit yet, and that’s going to have an impact as well.
“It was really, really good to have Gavin Cogdon back in the fold on Saturday, as well as Darren Lough.
“We’ve got Mr Arca coming back this week too, which will only strengthen us again, so there is lots of competition for places.”
The weekend double-header will see Shields come up against two teams who are tipped to have a big say in the promotion race this season in EVO-STIK North.
Bamber Bridge, like the Mariners, have started their league campaign with back-to-back victories, while Scarborough have four points from their opening two games.
Picton feels the Mariners will have to utilise their squad if they are to have a chance of maintaining their 100% record.
He added: “It hasn’t been an easy start. Trafford were a tough test for us in the first game in particular, and now we’ve got Bamber Bridge and Scarborough in the space of three days.
“They’re teams who I’m sure have got aspirations of being there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
“We’re going to have to do what we did at the back end of last season and utilise the squad again across the weekend.
“We’ll give some careful consideration as to how we plan that strategy, but we’re thoroughly looking forward to it.
“We’ve got an opportunity to train twice this week, and then follow that up with two games in quick succession.”
If you’d like a place in hospitality for the game against Bamber Bridge at Mariners Park, please call 0191 454 7800.
Tickets also remain available for the trip to Scarborough on Monday. Please dial the same number, or visit Mariners Park, if you would like any.