South Shields took another huge step towards promotion last night with a terrific 2-0 win at Atherton Collieries.
The Mariners’ fourth successive league victory moved them three points clear of Hyde United at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division, with two games in hand.
Third-placed Scarborough Athletic were held to a 0-0 draw at Tadcaster Albion as Shields’ lead over them stretched to seven points with a game in hand.
The Mariners were up against an Atherton side in excellent form, having recently claimed the scalp of Scarborough.
However, their composed performance meant they were rarely troubled as they showed the qualities which have made their season so successful thus far.
They took the lead in the 13th minute, moments after Chris Lynch had headed a presentable opportunity wide for the hosts.
Dillon Morse sent a superb pass downfield which Lee Mason ran onto, and just as the angle looked as though it had become too tight, he squeezed the ball home for his fourth goal in three games.
Moments later, the lively Michael Richardson got in behind and looked set to score, but his effort was cleared off the line.
Chances were hard to come by for both teams, but the Mariners went close again when Craig Baxter’s sweet strike from 25 yards was well held by goalkeeper Greg Hartley.
Aksel Juul was introduced at half-time by Shields, and his impact was immediate.
A Richardson cross was clawed away from goal by Hartley but the Mariners kept the ball alive and the ball was played to Juul, who swept it into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Richardson curled an effort over, Mason volleyed past the post and Robert Briggs had a shot saved as Shields looked to add some gloss to the scoreline.
They continued to keep the ball well and saw the game out with ease to claim another important three points.
With at least the top two to win promotion, Shields are in a commanding position.
They will hope to maintain their fine form when they travel to Ossett Albion tomorrow for a 3pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Ross 80), Storey, Briggs, Mason (Armstrong 70), Richardson, Holmes (Juul 46). Subs not used: Woolston, Nicholson.
Goals: Mason (13), Juul (50).