South Shields suffered a disappointing night in the Durham Challenge Cup as Northern League leaders Stockton Town came from behind to win 2-1 at Mariners Park.
A brace from Anchors captain Adam Nicholson turned the game on its head in the second half after Josh Gillies’ superb free-kick had given Shields the lead before the break.
The winner was notched by Nicholson in the first minute of second half stoppage time as Stockton ended Shields’ hopes of winning a competition they last triumphed in three years ago.
Shields made eight changes from the team which had won 2-1 at Lancaster City three days previously, with Myles Boney, Jordan Hunter and Gary Brown the three players to keep their places.
They started brightly enough, with teenage defender Ben Errington floating a header wide and Brown powerfully heading over within the first eight minutes.
Stockton, who have enjoyed a tremendous season so far, fired a warning as to their prowess from set-pieces on the quarter-hour mark as Nicholson volleyed over from a corner when well-placed.
Jamie Owens also had a glorious chance to open the scoring when he robbed Shields of possession high up the pitch before rolling an effort wide.
Boney made a terrific fingertip save to keep out a header from Owens as Stockton’s impressive spell continued, although the Mariners still looked dangerous at the other end and went close as Hunter fired narrowly wide from 25 yards.
The home side made the breakthrough in stunning style three minutes before half-time as Gillies curled an inch-perfect free-kick into the net via the post for his second goal in as many Durham Challenge Cup appearances.
Shields carried that lead into the break but found themselves on the back foot for much of the second half as the Anchors threatened a comeback.
Fred Woodhouse drifted a shot over and Owens fired off target from distance before Stockton struck 15 minutes before the end.
Max Craggs’ corner from the left fell to Nicholson in the six-yard box and his effort squeezed past Shields substitute Arron Thompson on the line.
Mikey Roberts thought he had put the visitors in front less than two minutes later when he finished a swift counter-attack but the offside flag denied him.
Shields’ best efforts for a winner came from Thompson, who first cut inside from the left and had a goalbound effort blocked before later drilling a shot from distance which goalkeeper Callum Roberts got down to save.
Stockton clinched the tie a minute into stoppage time from another Craggs corner – this time from the right – which was finished first-time by Nicholson at the back post to spark Anchors celebrations.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Ross, Errington (Baxter 63), Brown, Gillies, Guy (Thompson 71), Mason (Hodgson 82), Jenkins, Alli. Subs not used: Charlton, Wade.
Goal: Gillies (42).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields saw off Billingham Town in an entertaining tie to book their place in the quarter-final of the Durham Challenge Cup – but the win was overshadowed by a knee injury sustained by Luke Daly.
Daly was 12 minutes into his comeback from a five-month lay-off when he was stretchered off to leave his Shields team-mates in sombre mood.
They were already a goal ahead at that stage thanks to a fine finish from Lee Mason and he netted again 11 minutes before half-time to double the advantage.
Northern League side Billingham threatened a comeback when Dan Flounders quickly pulled a goal back but Callum Guy’s strike just before the break restored the Mariners’ two-goal lead.
Daly’s replacement Josh Gillies – himself making a comeback from a long-term injury – struck Shields’ fourth in the second half and although Luke Hogan would later add Billingham’s second, it was the home side which made it through to a home quarter-final against Stockton Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Coombe, Baxter, Charlton (Adams 61), Ross, Morse, Errington, Daly (c) (Gillies 15), Guy, Hodgson (Alli 61), Jenkins, Mason. Subs not used: Hunter, Gonzales.
Goals: Mason (7, 34), Guy (45+1), Gillies (60).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.