Darlington 0-3 South Shields: Terrific FA Cup triumph for Mariners
South Shields’ Emirates FA Cup run continued as they cruised to a stunning 3-0 win at Darlington on Saturday.
The Mariners were on top form across the pitch as they swept aside their National League North opponents to qualify for the third qualifying round.
Dillon Morse put them 1-0 up inside the first seven minutes, and Carl Finnigan added a deserved second before the half-hour mark against Darlington, who are ranked two leagues higher than Shields.
Finnigan then wrapped it up in the closing stages in front of a jubilant travelling support numbering more than 600.
It was comfortably the Mariners’ best performance of the season so far as they rose to the occasion.
They took the lead early on as Robert Briggs’ free-kick from the left was flicked on by Jon Shaw and brilliant fired into the roof of the net by Morse to silence the home support.
Shields dealt with everything Darlo could throw at them, closing down the space and stopping the supply to striker Mark Beck.
When Darlington did make efforts at goal, they were usually from outside the box, with Josh Gillies and James Caton firing wide, while Beck was denied by a block from Morse.
Shields then doubled their their lead on 27 minutes.
Jamie Holmes showed great strength to turn his man midway inside the opposition half and played in Anthony Callaghan down the left, whose low cross was slid in by Finnigan.
Shields’ work-rate from the front was superb and earned them a number of opportunities in the closing stages of the first half.
Gavin Cogdon was among those leading from the front, and he almost made it three, only to be denied by a superb block from Terry Galbraith.
Cogdon was also prevented from having a tap-in at the back post by a great interception from Liam Marrs.
Mariners goalkeeper Jack Norton – making his first start in place of the injured Liam Connell – was not called into action to make a serious save in the whole match, and the closest Darlo came to beating him was three minutes before the break when Josef Wheatley’s effort was deflected into his hands.
Shields were more dominant after the break, and only a brilliant double save by Adam Bartlett stopped them going three up as he kept out efforts from Cogdon and Holmes – the second of which was from point-blank range.
A big penalty appeal for handball was turned down and Shields played themselves into threatening positions on numerous occasions.
At the other end, they were rarely troubled, and Norton dealt with crosses admirably.
Bartlett kept the score down, saving from Briggs after one of the Mariners’ best openings, before the victory was sealed with a minute left.
Shields broke well from a Darlington attack and Michael Richardson exchanged passes with Finnigan before playing the striker in on goal, and he made no mistake.
The big travelling support were singing in the rain – and there was no doubt that their team was winning.
The Mariners now eagerly await Monday’s draw for the third qualifying round as their dream goes on.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Norton, Baxter, Callaghan (Nicholson 90+2), Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Smith, Briggs, Cogdon (Richardson 79), Finnigan, Holmes (Sullivan 54). Subs not used: Lister, Storey, Pattison, Stephenson.
Goals: Morse (7), Finnigan (27, 89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.