South Shields booked their place in the third round of the Integro League Cup on Tuesday with a deserved win over Stocksbridge Park Steels.
Michael Richardson and Luke Sullivan were on target in a 2-1 victory for Shields on a bitterly cold night at Mariners Park.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton had made six changes from the team which drew 0-0 at Prescot Cables in the league three days earlier.
Among those brought in for their first starts of the season were Harrison Scott and academy prospect Ethan Biwer, and both players impressed in the full-back positions.
The Mariners were on the front foot from the start, and went close early on when Matty Pattison swung in a delivery which goalkeeper David Reay did well to hold.
A number of other half chances came and went before Richardson broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time.
Pattison slid a pass beyond the defence for Sullivan, who touched it past Reay and then fired across goal for Richardson to tap home.
He could have added another less than a minute later, but his effort from a tight angle went narrowly wide.
Stocksbridge were dangerous on the rare occasions they were able to get forward, and Rory Coleman forced Jack Norton into a decent save with an effort from distance.
Jamie Holmes was a constant thorn in the visitors’ side, and almost put them two behind when his powerful drive was tipped over by Reay.
Reay again proved to be Holmes’ nemesis when the Shields frontman got on the end of a flowing move and was denied by the foot of the goalkeeper.
Dillon Morse and Scott also saw good efforts kept out by Reay, who had done brilliantly to keep his team in with a chance.
Biwer could have got on the scoresheet as the game ticked into the latter stages, but his effort was brilliantly blocked, while at the other end, Coleman had a shot deflected wide from distance.
The tie looked to have been put to bed when Sullivan rattled in an 89th minute penalty after being brought down by Reay.
Just seconds later, though, substitute Oliver Warren pulled one back for the Steels to make it a nervy ending for the home side.
However, Shields saw the result out to claim their place in the third round.
They are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Ramsbottom United in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Norton, Scott, Biwer, Briggs (c), Morse, Storey, Richardson, Pattison (Baxter 46), Sullivan, Stephenson, Holmes. Subs not used: Connell, Shaw, Finnigan.
Goals: Richardson (43), Sullivan (pen 89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields host Stocksbridge Park Steels on Tuesday as they aim to make progress in the Integro League Challenge Cup.
The match will see two high-flying sides come together, with Shields top of EVO-STIK North and the Steels third in EVO-STIK South.
Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy made his breakthrough into senior football with Stocksbridge, who come into Tuesday’s match in good form.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton feels his side will have to produce some of their best football to claim a place in the third round.
He said: “Stocksbridge have had a good start to the season and I’m sure they’ll come to Mariners Park with lots of confidence.
“We need to give them respect and produce our best if we are to get through.
“It will be another opportunity for players who maybe haven’t had a lot of game-time recently to come in and show what they’re capable of.
“Like every game, we want to win. We’ve prepared for it properly and given it some real thought and attention.”
Shields will be without the injured Barrie Smith, Adam Hutchinson and Stephen Ramsey, while there are doubts over the likes of Julio Arca and Jon Shaw.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm, and admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
South Shields joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton are set to appear at a question and answer session with supporters on Thursday.
The event is open to all those in the SSFC Members’ Club, and will start at 7pm in the O’Brien Lounge at Mariners Park.
One of the managers will appear at 7pm alongside a player, while the other manager will speak alongside another player later in the night.
The night will be split into two sections, with food to be supplied by club chef Carl Ferguson between them.
All those in the Members’ Club are welcome to attend and put their questions to those on the stage. They simply need to show their membership card to gain entry.