South Shields turned in a performance of the highest order as a Robert Briggs hat-trick helped them to a 6-1 thrashing of Ryhope CW at Mariners Park on Saturday.
Shields recovered from a slow start to dominate the game and claim a sixth consecutive victory, which moved them to the top of Northern League Division One.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 1,144, which was the third four-figure attendance in a week at Mariners Park.
The large home support was shocked into silence after just two minutes, though, when Ryhope’s James Ellis rattled a free-kick into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Shields struggled to get going in the early stages, but Jon Shaw dragged them level on 16 minutes with a stunning left-foot drive into the top corner from just inside the box.
Within two minutes of that, the Mariners were ahead after another excellent goal.
Again Shaw was at the heart of things as he linked up with Julio Arca, who first drove through the centre before a terrific give and go with Shaw. The striker then played Arca through on goal, and he made no mistake as he rolled the ball into the bottom corner.
Shields began to dominate, but goalkeeper Joss Carmichael had to be alert at the other end to make a good stop from Ellis.
Shaw went agonisingly close to doubling his tally for the afternoon when Leepaul Scroggins found him on the edge of the box and he rattled a low shot which Christopher Rookes tipped wide.
Rookes made an even better save from the striker soon after, clawing his header over the bar after he was found by Wayne Phillips, who had bamboozled his defender with some great skill before delivering a superb cross.
Shaw went close again two minutes before the break as Shields again cut Ryhope open, but this time he was off target as he hammered the ball narrowly over.
Three minutes into the second half, the third goal arrived when Briggs cut open the away defence with a ball to Craig Baxter, who rifled into the roof of the net from the inside-right of the box.
Briggs himself got in on the act soon after as Shaw nicked the ball off a Ryhope defender before clipping it past the goalkeeper for his team-mate to tap home.
Ryhope continued to possess an attacking threat, and a ball over the top played Harvey Saunders in on goal, but Carmichael was in determined mood and kept out his low effort.
Shields showed greater potency going forward, and added their fifth goal of the afternoon when Barrie Smith curled in an inch-perfect ball from the right which Briggs nodded into the top corner.
Briggs almost completed a 13-minute hat-trick soon after, but his free-kick from outside the area on the left clipped the crossbar.
He did not have to wait too much longer for his third, though, and it came when Louis Storey brought the ball down the left flank before pulling it back to Briggs, who steered it first time into the bottom corner with a brilliant finish. The Mariners will aim for a seventh win in a row on Tuesday when they travel to Marske United.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Carmichael, Baxter, Arca (Morse 35), Briggs, Danny Carson, Storey, Smith, Scroggins (c) (Palmer 64), Shaw (Byrne 60), David Carson, Phillips. Subs not used: Parkin, Finnigan.
Goals: Shaw (16), Arca (18), Baxter (48), Briggs (51, 61, 71).