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.
The club is delighted to announce the signing of left-back Anthony Callaghan from Washington.
The 22-year-old, formerly of Darlington and Sunderland, is available to make his debut for the Mariners at Dunston UTS on Tuesday.
Callaghan has expressed his excitement after joining the Mariners, who he faced as a Washington player last month.
He said: “I’m over the moon to join and I can’t wait to get started.
“I played against Shields earlier this season and I could see that they were a great side, so I’m looking forward to being part of it.
“There’s a lot of competition for places so I’m prepared to get my head down and work hard to get into the side and keep my place.
“The team is doing great, so hopefully I can help them continue that.
“I can’t wait to put the strip on and get involved, get mucked in and get to know everybody.”
Welcome to the club, Anthony!
South Shields began life under Graham Fenton and Lee Picton with a deserved 3-1 win over Washington at Mariners Park on Tuesday.
The victory moved the Mariners to the top of Northern League Division One as they leapfrogged Shildon and North Shields, who were both not in action.
It was a fifth successive victory for Shields, who played in front of a crowd of 1,164. They came out of the blocks superbly, and it took them less than five minutes to take the lead.
The breakthrough came as Julio Arca clipped a tremendous ball over the top for Carl Finnigan to run onto, and he squared the ball for Jon Shaw, who stroked it home.
It was almost one-way traffic in those early stages, but against the run of play, Washington almost levelled when striker Ash Davis broke free on the inside-left of the box and then rattled an effort against the post.
That did not alter the flow of the game, though, and Shaw was denied by a fine save from visiting goalkeeper Dale Connor, while Arca and David Palmer also had efforts kept out by the former Shields player.
Washington’s side also included former Mariners Daryll Hall and Ibby Hassan, and they went two goals down when the lively Wayne Phillips chipped a good cross into the box which Finnigan forced in with his head.
The ground was stunned, though, when the Mechanics pulled a goal back from almost nothing, with Matthew Waters sending a tremendous chip in off the bar.
Shields suffered a further blow when influential defender Ben Clark was forced off through injury, and Washington came more into the game, with Davis going close with a header.
Shaw thought he had made it 3-1 with a header from Craig Baxter’s cross, but the offside flag went up, while in the second half, Finnigan, Shaw and Phillips all went close as the Mariners pushed forward.
Shields were always in control, but struggled to kill the game off, with Robert Briggs going the closest when he had an effort brilliantly kept out by Connor.
The third goal finally arrived when David Carson ran through and then squared the ball for Finnigan to tap home seven minutes from the end.
Shields are back in action on Saturday when Ryhope CW visit Mariners Park for a 3pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Carmichael, Baxter, Arca, David Carson, Clark (Storey 34), Danny Carson, Palmer (Smith 74), Scroggins (c), Shaw, Finnigan, Phillips (Briggs 64). Subs not used: Connell, Morse.
Goals: Shaw (5), Finnigan (21, 83).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.