North Shields produced one of their best performances of 2016 so far to deservedly beat Marske United at the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Kevin Hughes and Ben Richardson were drafted into the side for the midweek clash between the current FA Vase holders and incumbent Northern League champions, with John Parker and Peter Glen-Ravenhill the players making way.
The home side pressed from the first whistle, linking play well and moving the ball with speed and confidence.
The opening goal on five minutes was a just reward for the bright of start.
Michael McKeown had seen an early free kick deflected over, but the midfielder found the target with a precise curled finish to cap a fantastic team move.
Richardson, returned to the starting line-up after Saturday’s Bedlington Terriers draw, was in sparkling form and almost doubled the lead on eight minutes, drilling an effort across goal, while Dan Wilson and Ryan McGorrigan also spurned early half chances.
That early pressure was beginning to tell on the visitors, and a sloppy pass around the halfway line afforded Shields the opportunity to break. Dean Holmes instantly fed Wilson in on goal, and though the striker powered half the length of the pitch unopposed, he placed the simple one-on-one agonisingly wide of the far post.
Marske had not been in the game up until that point, but almost took advantage of the reprieve from a set piece, Luke Bythway’s corner nodded onto the post by the otherwise quiet Jamie Owens.
Richardson laced one effort over and livewire Holmes shot wide under pressure as Shields searched for a two-goal cushion, and they got just that on 35 minutes.
Goalkeeper James Briggs’ attempted clearance was partially charged down by the tireless Richardson, dropping kindly into the path of Wilson. The number nine controlled with his chest, shrugged off his marker and fired low into the bottom corner to deservedly double Shields’ advantage.
The former Dunston striker almost doubled his tally moments after the break, collecting a threaded pass from Holmes and shooting goalwards, only for centre half Shaun Ryder to make a crucial clearance off the line.
The defender caught sight of goal at the other end not long after, sending a rare shot wide across the face of goal, but an improved Marske would halve arrears on 58 minutes, Adam Preston zipping a cross from the right and left back Josh Myers arriving late to smash past Chris Bannon.
Back in the match, the Yorkshire outfit acquitted themselves better in a more even second half, but the chances were still falling Shields’ way, Richardson twice threatening and Wilson heading over.
Holmes almost wrapped it up for the home side with 20 minutes remaining. Richardson was at the heart of the move again, playing the ball out wide into the path of the winger, keeper Briggs getting a touch on the goalbound strike to send it wide.
Substitute Gareth Bainbridge had the ball in the back of the net late on, only to see the offside flag raised on the near side.
It mattered little as North Shields rode out the final five minutes with ease, sealing their first league win of the calendar year.
Graham Fenton’s men will be enjoying their home comforts for another week, entertaining West Auckland on Saturday afternoon and Jarrow Roofing the following Wednesday at the Daren Persson Stadium.
North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Lancaster, McKeown, Hughes, Coppen, McGorrigan (Luccock), Ormston, Wilson (Bainbridge), Richardson, Holmes (Summerly).