Ayr United 0-2 South Shields: Mariners into Raydale Cup final
South Shields put Scottish Championship side Ayr United to the sword with a commanding display as they marched into the final of the Raydale Cup.
Shields took a deserved two-goal lead into half-time, with Julio Arca scoring a brace in the closing stages of the half.
Although Ayr improved after the interval, they could not break through a resolute Mariners defence as Shields impressed in their first outing of pre-season.
From the outset, the underdogs were on top against their professional opponents, pressing them into mistakes at the back and winning back possession high up the field.
However, despite much fine play in the first half-hour, Jon King’s side were unable to make the breakthrough.
Shields looked dangerous every time they attacked, with David Foley denied on a number of occasions by Ayr goalkeeper Greg Fleming.
Jon Shaw also drilled a shot not far wide on his first appearance for the Mariners, while Gavin Cogdon flashed an effort over.
The breakthrough finally arrived six minutes before half-time when Shields were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out on the right.
Arca curled in a wicked delivery which evaded everyone before nestling in the opposite corner to delight the strong travelling support.
Shields finally had the goal their play deserved, and a second was not long in coming.
Ayr flashed a shot over at one end, while Louis Storey narrowly failed to convert a header at the other, before the ever-dangerous Foley was played in on goal.
With the former Hartlepool United forward looking likely to fire in, an Ayr defender slid in with a despairing tackle, only to bring the Shields man down. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, from which Arca coolly slid in a penalty.
In the second half, Ayr – who won promotion to Scotland’s second tier last season – came out with renewed purpose, and substitute Craig McGuffie was denied early on by Shields’ trialist goalkeeper.
Daryl Meggatt also sent a header not far wide, before Shields made eight changes at once.
That altered the pattern of play as the introduced players got to grips with the game, but Ayr were still unable to get a foothold.
Arca – who was outstanding throughout – was one of the three Shields starters to stay on the pitch, but he was later brought off to well-deserved cheers of appreciation.
Ayr had some better opportunities late in the second half, but Paddy Boyle’s effort whistled over the crossbar, while the Mariners goalkeeper made two fine saves – including one terrific one-handed stop – to keep the margin of advantage at two.
That is the way it remained until the end of the game as Shields gained an impressive scalp to move into Sunday’s final, when they will face another Scottish Championship side, Queen of the South. They dispatched hosts Gretna 6-1 in the other semi-final.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist, Baxter (Galpin 58), Turner (Trialist 58), Trialist (Carson 58), Storey (Morse 58), Arca (Briggs 76), Palmer (Teasdale 58), Scroggins (c) (Wade 58), Shaw (Ramsey 58), Cogdon, Foley (Byrne 58).
Goals: Arca (39, pen 43).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.