South Shields suffered heartbreak in the Durham FA County Cup final on Sunday as Durham Cestria ran out 6-1 winners.
The Mariners have been impressive in recent weeks and made a great account of themselves during their cup run.
They suffered an early blow at Harton Welfare, though, as Erin Williams-Brown was forced off in the early stages of the game with a leg injury and Megan Archibold volunteered to be the stand-in goalkeeper.
Durham took the lead early in the game as Abby Towers did well to cut out a cross but the ball bounced off the post and in fortunate circumstances, the visitors had the ball in the net.
They doubled their lead when a speculative effort was curled into the top corner and when a third goal arrived shortly after, it was shaping up to be a tall order for Shields.
Archibold made a brilliant save to keep the Mariners in the game but Durham did add a fourth just before the break, as they scored a great free-kick that was just out of Archibold‘s reach.
The game was put out of sight as a threaded ball through the defence found the Durham forward, who finished via the post.
Annece Legg pulled one back almost immediately for Shields. Some great pressing of the Durham back line resulted in the goalkeeper taking a poor touch, and Legg made her pay by stealing the ball and finishing the chance.
Shields continued to press to get themselves back in the game as the second half continued.
Durham had a half-chance as the striker ran through on goal, but Alex Miller did just enough to put her off as she fired over the bar.
The opposition then added a sixth as a well-executed one-two allowed the striker to run through on goal and she slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Eve Gattens had a chance with a free-kick from close range. She tried to go under the wall, but the goalkeeper read it and held onto the effort.
There were further chances for Durham to extend their lead but they hit the post with one chance, were denied by a fantastic save by Archibold and then struck the crossbar with a whipped free-kick as the scoring ended at six.
Shields head coach Scott Curtis said: “I firstly want to say congratulations to Durham.
“I think we matched them for the last hour of the game, but they were the better team for the first 30.
“We are disappointed to not come away as winners, but I am proud of each and every player, and we will come back stronger.
“There were some positive signs for sure and we can only improve.”
Rampant South Shields progressed to the County Cup final with an impressive 4-1 win over Gateshead at Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare on Sunday.
Shields had the first opportunity of the game as Eve Gatens played a dangerous ball across the box, but the defender did well to clear.
The hosts hit the post immediately afterwards as Rebecca Ward floated a corner into the box, the goalkeeper misjudged the flight of the ball and it bounced against the woodwork.
It wasn’t long before Shields’ pressure paid off. Jade Dryden broke clear, composed herself and fired into the net.
Gateshead forced Erin Williams-Brown into her first save of the game, but the effort was tame and the goalkeeper matched it.
The Mariners were inches away from doubling their lead soon after as Abby Towers struck an effort towards goal from close range, but the Gateshead goalkeeper somehow managed to keep it out.
Gatens then broke through the middle and found herself one on one, but the Gateshead goalkeeper again produced a brilliant save.
Seconds afterwards, Shields did punish Gateshead. Becki McMahon did well to find space in the box and fired into the far corner.
Another goal almost arrived as a brilliant pass by Ward released Gatens, who rounded the goalkeeper, but the effort from a tight angle went narrowly wide.
Annece Legg was unlucky not to extend the Mariners’ lead as she hit a free-kick from close range off the bar. The home side continued to pressure the Gateshead defence.
Shields, again, could have had a third as Dryden played the ball across the box to Gatens, but the goalkeeper matched the effort and cleared the danger.
Gatens put the game beyond doubt just after the break with a sensational goal. She broke down the right wing, waited until the goalkeeper came out and chipped the ball into the net.
Seconds afterwards, Gateshead were reduced to 10 players. A late challenge on Gatens gave the referee no option but to send the Gateshead player off.
Sophie White had the ball in the net later for Shields, but the referee disallowed it for an alleged push in the back.
The pressure continued to be forced by Shields and they somehow didn’t extend their lead when Alex Miller’s pointblank header was brilliantly saved and White fired narrowly over.
Towers hit the post after being found by Dryden and Gateshead hit the post at the other end before pulling a goal back with a placed effort into the bottom corner.
Shields grabbed their fourth in the dying embers of the game to put the outcome beyond doubt. Ward found space on the right wing and played a great ball across, and Towers was there to tap home at the far post.
Speaking of her joy of reaching the County Cup final and the team’s overall performance, Megan Archibold said: “It feels great to win, and especially that emphatically in a semi-final.
“It was disappointing not to keep the clean sheet but the performance by every player was fantastic, and we didn’t stop until the final whistle.”
Picture by ID Event Photography.
Hat-trick hero Eve Gatens inspired a second half comeback by South Shields Ladies as they defeated Wallsend 7-4 in a pulsating friendly on Sunday.
The Mariners showed tremendous character to recover from 4-1 down at half-time to storm to victory.
Wallsend were a real threat, particularly in the first half, and were denied an opening goal by a fine Erin Williams-Brown save after breaking the offside trap.
Lois Greenslade then burst through on goal to give Shields their first clear-cut chance, but her effort narrowly went wide.
The away side took the lead only moments later as an in-swinging corner deceived the goalkeeper and Sophie White was there to head into an empty net.
Against the run of play, Wallsend found an equaliser before almost going in front as the woodwork was struck.
They were now the team in the ascendancy and their pressure paid off as the ball was played through and Williams-Brown was beaten by an impressive dink.
Shields nearly found an immediate response as Annece Legg played a great cross to the back post and Jade Dryden’s volley hit the base of the post and out.
Williams-Brown then made a brilliant save from a corner as the ball was headed towards the bottom corner and she shifted her weight to somehow keep it out.
The Mariners hit the post again as Greenslade played a trialist through on goal, but the effort hit the outside of the post.
Despite Shields’ pressure, Wallsend found a third as their winger showed a burst of pace and slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Williams-Brown made another great save as the ball was diverted towards her own goal and she reacted well to push it wide.
Only seconds afterwards, Wallsend found a fourth as a cross hit an unfortunate Shields defender before nestling in the goal.
The Mariners nearly found a way back into the game early in the second half as Greenslade found herself free, but she guided her effort wide.
They did gain a foothold soon after though as Greenslade – who had been dangerous all afternoon – broke free and slotted home.
Legg nearly found another for Shields but the Wallsend goalkeeper matched her effort and made a brilliant save.
Shields mounted on the pressure and pulled back to within a goal of their hosts as Greenslade found lots of space on the wing and played the ball across for Gatens, who tapped into an empty net.
The equaliser arrived moments later as a looping cross by Legg caused unrest in the Wallsend penalty area and a trialist turned the ball home.
Greenslade had another great chance as she found space yet again, but the goalkeeper was on hand to deny her.
That was to prove a temporary reprieve for the hosts as Gatens soon put Shields in front. Dryden drove forwards and found Greenslade, who played a defence splitting-ball through to Gatens and she lifted an effort over the goalkeeper.
The Mariners didn’t let up there as Legg pounded on a mistake by the Wallsend goalkeeper. She was caught off her line and the ball looped into the back of the net.
Gatens then put the game to bed and completed her hat-trick as she broke the Wallsend offside trap and burst into the box, turned the defender and slotted past the goalkeeper.
Hat-trick hero Gatens said afterwards: “It shows the character of this group to come back and win this game. We are delighted with the performance.
“I’m delighted to have scored a hat-trick. It gives me confidence in my abilities and now we want to build on this against Wear United next week.”