South Shields Academy continued their impressive form as they swept to a 4-0 win over Gateshead College in the ECFA Premier Cup.
Sam Hodgson netted twice for the young Mariners, with Stevie Black and Will Jenkins also on the scoresheet at Silksworth Sports Complex.
Shields led 2-0 at half-time, but it was their second half performance which particularly impressed joint manager Graham Fenton.
He said: “It was a good display, especially in the second half.
“We weren’t quite at our fluent best in the first half but after half-time the lads really upped their levels.
“They were particularly impressive in a 25-minute spell in the second half and that was really pleasing to watch.
“We thoroughly deserved the win.”
In the previous round, the young Mariners saw off Kirklees College with an 8-1 win thanks to hat-tricks from Hodgson and Dom Minchella, and further goals from Olly Scott and Tom Green.
SSFC Academy team to face Gateshead College: Bramley, Patterson, Lockey, Carney, Errington, Onarbay, Black, Elcoate, Colquhoun, Jenkins, S Hodgson. Subs: E Hodgson, Croft, Morris, Ames, Minchella.
Robert Briggs scored a superb hat-trick as South Shields marched into the semi-finals of the Durham Challenge Cup on a bitterly cold night at Sunderland RCA.
Shields were twice pegged back in the first half but goals from Callum Guy, Nathan Lowe and Briggs after the break sealed their place in the last four.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton mixed experience with youth as teenagers Dan Lister, Ethan Biwer, Olly Scott and Guy were all handed starts.
They got off to the best possible start thanks to a stunning goal from Briggs.
Former Shields goalkeeper Scott Pocklington’s clearance fell to him 45 yards from goal and he brilliantly sent the ball back where it came from with a terrific lob.
Biwer kept Shields ahead soon after with a superb goal-line clearance, but RCA did equalise on 17 minutes as Greg Swansbury fired a low ball from the right into the roof of the net.
The Mariners were given a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead when Gavin Cogdon was fouled in the area seven minutes before half-time.
Briggs made no mistake from the spot as he squeezed his low penalty under the legs of Pocklington.
Shields did not carry that lead into half-time, though, with Nathan O’Neill equalising in the 45th minute with a powerful finish past Lister.
The Mariners kept their composure on what was a difficult surface, although they relied on an impressive double save from Lister to keep them level 20 minutes into the second half.
Another teenager from Shields’ academy, Max Cowburn, was brought on with 25 minutes remaining and he played a pivotal role in the goal which put their noses back in front.
He was played in on the right channel and then beat the home defence with a magnificent low cross which Guy sent into the net first time at the back post.
Guy was at the centre of the fourth goal, too, as he exchanged passes with Lowe before the midfielder calmly finished past Pocklington.
Between the goals, the superb Lister made a good reaction save to prevent a Jon Shaw own goal as he ensured the hosts were not given a route back into the tie.
The scoring was completed with the last kick of the game as Briggs was played in on the right of the box and made no mistake with a calm finish to seal a 5-2 win.
It was another fine evening’s work for the Mariners, who now switch their attentions to a home game against Whitby Town on Saturday in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lister, Biwer (Morse 66), Scott, Shaw (c), Brown, Mouanda, Lowe, Briggs, Harmison (Cowburn 66), Guy (Thompson 81), Cogdon. Subs not used: Baxter, Allasan.
Goals: Briggs (4, pen 39, 90+1), Guy (73), Lowe (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.