Triumphant South Shields boss Lee Picton hailed a ‘monumental effort’ from his players after they clinched the Northern League Division One title for the first time in the club’s history.
The Mariners beat Ashington 4-1 last night to spark memorable celebrations in front of their loyal travelling support.
A brace from David Foley and strikes from Michael Richardson and Gavin Cogdon - the latter in stoppage time - sealed the championship in style after Saturday’s disappointing draw against Morpeth Town had put the champagne on ice.
An ecstatic Picton couldn’t hide his delight after guiding Shields to the league crown in his first season in charge alongside fellow joint manager Graham Fenton.
Picton said: “It was a great night. We were focused on the game but it really hit home at the end just how many fans we had there.
“The lads started off really well just like we asked them. It was a dream scenario for me and Graham.”
The Mariners at one stage had trailed North Shields by a massive 17 points but hunted down their rivals thanks to a relentless winning run.
Picton insisted he had always been confident that his squad had enough quality to stay in the title race, even when they were playing catch-up with games coming thick and fast.
He added: “I never got to a stage where I thought we were out of it.
“Even when we were 17 points behind I thought if there was any team that could go on a winning run like we needed to, then it was us.
“I never thought we were out of it at any stage.
“You cast your mind back to the halfway point which was the North Shields game, we were on 47 points after 21 games. We said to the lads that if we could better that in the second half if the season then we would have a great chance of getting promoted at the very least.
“It’s been a monumental effort in the second half of the season. We’ve played 20 league games - won 19 and drawn one. You can’t argue with that.”
Picton stepped up to become joint manager after Jon King was sacked in September, with Fenton joining him in the dugout.
The pair, who have worked together for years at Monkseaton College, have proven to be a dynamic double act, not only leading Shields to the title and promotion, but also to three cup finals, including Wembley for the first time in the club’s history.
However, Picton was quick to point out the performance of the players in pulling together as a squad.
“We went through some tough times earlier on,” he admitted.
“We had to dig deep and work hard but it’s been a privilege to work with this group of players; they’ve more than matched what we’ve done behind the scenes and that’s all you can ask for from a group of players.”