South Shields were eliminated from the League Cup at the first round stage as Morpeth Town ran out 4-1 winners at Mariners Park.
Morpeth were clinical and their experience told in front of a crowd of almost 1,000.
Shields joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton opted to make a number of changes with Saturday’s huge FA Cup tie with Stockport County looming large.
Academy prospects Tom Bexton, Lewis Orrell and Arron Thompson were handed their competitive first-team debuts, while there were also first appearances of the season for Brendan Pearson, Callum Guy, Karl Ross and substitutes Dan Lowther and Lee Mason.
Shields will have seen the match as a useful learning experience for some of the club’s brightest talents and valuable for those first-team players in need of minutes on the pitch.
Morpeth were close to full strength and took the lead in spectacular fashion as former Shields defender Iulian Petrache let fly from 35 yards and picked out the top corner with a stunning strike.
Sean Taylor had a chance to make it two before the half-hour mark, but skewed his effort wide from close range.
Shields’ best effort in the first half was a free-kick from Dan Wright a minute before the break, but goalkeeper Dan Lowson did well to hold it.
Morpeth doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when a cross from the left bounced in the area and was blasted into the roof of the net by another former Shields man, Adam Burnicle.
The Mariners came quickly out of the blocks in the second half and got an early reward when Gavin Cogdon blasted in a low free-kick from the edge of the box.
They went on to have their best spell of the game and had a number of half chances to equalise.
Cogdon had a shot deflected wide, Dan Lowther’s effort from a tight angle was saved and two attempts from the edge of the box were blocked.
Morpeth were always dangerous, though, and almost restored their two goal advantage when substitute Liam Henderson was played in on the inside right of the box and his effort cannoned against the post via the hand of Liam Connell, who had been brought on midway through the first half after Pearson was withdrawn injured.
Morpeth did make it 3-1 with 14 minutes left thanks to a superb individual effort from substitute Ben Sayer, who showed fine footwork before firing a brilliant effort into the top corner from 20 yards.
Chris Hunter had a shot blocked as Shields looked to pull one back but Morpeth completed the scoring in stoppage time to give the scoreline a harsh look for the Mariners.
Again it was Sayer on the scoresheet as he finished coolly from close range.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pearson (Connell 27), Hunter, Lough, Thompson, Bexton, Brown (c), Guy (Lowther 61), Ross, Cogdon (Mason 77), Orrell, Wright. Subs not used: Adams, Mouanda.
Goal: Cogdon (48).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields’ Integro Cup challenge ended at the semi-final stage as a late fightback was unable to prevent them slipping to a 3-2 defeat against Coalville Town on Thursday.
Shields – who fielded four academy prospects from the start at Mariners Park – had some good moments against their Evo-Stik Premier Division opponents.
However, after falling 3-1 behind they left themselves too much to do in the closing stages and just failed to force a penalty shoot-out.
They got off to the worst possible start, with Daniel Creaney giving the visitors the lead inside the first two minutes when the ball broke to him in the box and he made no mistake.
Dean Freeman headed over from a corner soon after as Coalville looked to press ahead with their advantage.
The Mariners fought back well after that, and Aksel Juul and Dan Lowther had sighters of goal as they gained a foothold.
Shields got their reward in the 19th minute as a terrific through ball from Ethan Biwer found Michael Richardson, who rounded the keeper and slotted home.
Coalville responded well, and Cleveland Taylor struck the post with an effort from the right before Paul Woolston was forced into an impressive double save from Alex Howes and Creaney.
Jon Shaw had to clear a further shot off the line and Woolston made two more good saves as the visitors kept up the pressure.
They went back in front four minutes into the second half when Nathan Watson slotted in from the inside left of the box.
Richardson was one of Shields’ biggest threats, and he had a chance to equalise again, but his low effort was kept out by goalkeeper Elliott Taylor.
Coalville had some chances to go further ahead, the best of which saw a Danny Jenno header cleared off the line by Alex Nicholson.
They then struck what looked set to be a killer blow when Watson fired in his second via the crossbar.
Woolston made a good double save to keep the deficit at two before Shields rallied in an attempt to launch a late comeback.
They pulled one goal back when a Richardson free-kick from 25 yards took a huge deflection before nestling in the top corner.
There were opportunities for Shields to level, and they looked like they had done just that with five minutes left when a defender headed into his own net, but the flag controversially went up for offside.
A further golden opportunity fell to substitute Graeme Armstrong, but he fired over from close range.
Shields return to league action on Saturday when they host Colwyn Bay in a 3pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Woolston, Nicholson, Biwer, Shaw (c), Storey, Ross, Richardson, Lowther (Kavanagh 74), Sullivan, Guy (Finnigan 66), Juul (Armstrong 78). Subs not used: Connell, Patterson.
Goals: Richardson (19, 75).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.