South Shields won their third trophy of a remarkable season with an emphatic 5-0 victory over North Shields in the League Cup final.
The Mariners were rampant at Hillheads, with Gavin Cogdon netting a hat-trick, while Jon Shaw and Carl Finnigan were also on the scoresheet.
The win saw Shields add the League Cup to the Northern League Division One and Durham Challenge Cup titles they had already secured this season, and set them up perfectly for the trip to Wembley for the FA Vase final.
It also sealed the Mariners’ first success in the League Cup since 2010, when they beat Ashington on penalties in the final, and was the biggest margin of victory seen in the final of the competition for 58 years.
It had been expected to be a tight contest as the two former league title rivals went head-to-head, but South Shields almost immediately got on top of their opponents to set the tone.
The Robins, though, created the first half opportunity, with Liam Connell called into action to parry an effort from Dan Wilson which never looked like troubling the goalkeeper.
Less than five minutes were on the clock when Cogdon broke the deadlock.
After captain Julio Arca – back in the team after serving a two-match suspension for his red card in last month’s league fixture between the sides – won the ball in the middle, Cogdon got hold of it 25 yards out. There was only one thing on his mind, and he unleashed a dipping effort which found the bottom of the net.
The Mariners kept their foot on the gas, and got their rewards.
In the 13th minute, Shaw made a great run across the six-yard box to get on the end of an in-swinging corner by Alex Nicholson, and his deft header had enough on it to squirm past North Shields goalkeeper Kyle Hayes and double the South Shields advantage.
As they have done on numerous occasions in big matches this season, the Mariners had enjoyed a dream start, and the outcome did not appear to be in any danger.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Carl Finnigan had an effort deflected narrowly wide as South Shields threatened to run riot.
The Robins were struggling to make much of an impression going forward, but sparked into life just before the half-hour mark when a fine move led to an effort from Stuart Donnison which went wide.
The Mariners looked the more likely team to score next, and knew another goal would all but seal a third trophy of the season.
Their moment arrived when the tireless Finnigan won the ball midway inside the North Shields half and his flicked pass took a deflection before going beyond the defence. Cogdon looked unlikely to get to it, but showed superb desire to outpace his marker and then nudge the ball past Hayes and into the bottom corner.
He could have had a first half hat-trick soon after when he was found by a ball from Arca down the left and then wriggled into a shooting position in the box, but he blasted an effort over the bar.
A half chance from distance apiece came and went before half-time as the Mariners maintained their healthy advantage.
North Shields needed a huge – and swift – response after the break, and the signs were good for Jon McDonald’s side when they tested Connell in the first minute of the second half, with the goalkeeper holding a firm effort from Wilson.
That was not a sign of things to come, though, and almost immediately, South Shields worked a decent opening of their own before Cogdon had an attempt blocked.
Arca curled a free-kick not far past the post before the Mariners were handed a golden opportunity for goal number four.
Barrie Smith’s pass was touched past defender Kevin Hughes by Finnigan, who raced onto the loose ball himself and got there before Hayes, who dived at his feet and gave away a penalty.
Cogdon tucked the spot-kick into the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick and claim his 30th goal of the season as the final started to become a rout.
The period following the fourth goal was something of a procession as the Mariners kept possession and seemed content to just wait for any further opportunities which came their way.
The fifth goal arrived almost out of nothing. Smith moved the ball on to Finnigan 25 yards out, and he looked up before sending a swerving effort into the bottom corner to bring up his 30th goal of the campaign in stunning fashion.
In what have become familiar scenes this season, champagne was sprayed and the trophy was held aloft as South Shields’ remarkable season reached another high.
There is just one challenge remaining. All roads lead to Wembley on May 21.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Lough, Shaw (Petrache 78), Storey, Arca (c), Smith, Phillips (Briggs 44), Cogdon, Stephenson (Foley 64), Finnigan. Sub not used: Richardson.
Goals: Cogdon (5, 33, pen 56), Shaw (13), Finnigan (81).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields made it a hat-trick of cup finals on Wednesday with a 4-1 victory at holders Shildon in the League Cup semi-final.
After falling behind early on, the Mariners came storming back to win 4-1 against a 10-man Shildon side.
Carl Finnigan netted twice and former Sunderland youngster Jordan Blinco also scored a brace to cap a fine debut.
The Mariners will face cross-river rivals North Shields in a mouthwatering final on a date and at a venue yet to be confirmed.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side have now won an incredible 25 games in a row, but fell behind after just five minutes at Dean Street.
The goal was contentious, with Shields having heavy claims for a foul in the centre of the park waved away before Michael Rae raced through and slotted past Liam Connell.
The Mariners’ fightback was immediate as they enjoyed good possession, and when Blinco was fouled in the area, last man Jamie Harwood was given a straight red card.
It was the Shildon captain’s second dismissal against Shields this season, having suffered the same fate in the league fixture between the sides in October.
Finnigan rattled in the penalty, but there was little else of note in the first half, aside from a bullet of a free-kick from Iulian Petrache for the Mariners which didn’t clear the bar by much.
Shields improved after the break, and Blinco was denied by a fine save before putting Shields ahead soon after when he stroked the ball home after a knock down from Finnigan.
Petrache went close again within two minutes of that as he brought the ball out of defence before unleashing a stunning effort from 30 yards which Nick Liversedge tipped over.
The ever-reliable Liam Connell kept the scores level with an excellent save with his foot to deny Rae, and Shields did not look back.
Blinco made the result safe as he received the ball on the edge of the box before firing into the bottom corner.
He went agonisingly close to his hat-trick, too, but his header was clawed away by Liversedge as he made a superb save.
Finnigan had the last word as his header from a Wayne Phillips cross looped in the air before nestling in the bottom corner. It was his 23rd goal of the season.
He twice went close to a hat-trick late on, but was narrowly off target on both occasions.
The Mariners now have three cup finals to look forward to at the end of the season, and now face arguably their biggest challenge, clawing back North Shields’ 17 point advantage in the league.
They go to Ryhope Colliery Welfare on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Petrache (Smith 71), Arca (c) (Storey 61), Nicholson, Phillips, Finnigan, Stephenson, Blinco (Ramsey 84).
Goals: Finnigan (pen 13, 83), Blinco (52, 76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Michael Richardson scored a well-taken brace as South Shields made it through to the semi-finals of the League Cup – after a dramatic ending at Newcastle Benfield.
Shields were pegged back by the 10 men of Benfield late on from the penalty spot, with Mariners defender Dillon Morse sent off in the incident which led to the spot-kick.
Richardson put them back in front with four minutes left, but almost immediately, Shields conceded a second penalty.
This time, Paul Brayson struck the bar for the hosts as the Mariners survived a real scare to claim a 17th consecutive victory in all competitions.
On a wet pitch which was cutting up in places, Shields struggled to get going in the opening exchanges.
Goalkeeper Liam Connell had to make a fine early save from Thomas McNamee as the home side threatened.
Shields slowly started to gain a foothold, with Wayne Phillips going close before Craig Baxter was denied by a fine stop by Andrew Grainger after being slipped in by Richardson.
It was Richardson who put the Mariners in front on 14 minutes as he flicked the ball past a defender on the inside right of the box before slotting into the bottom corner.
Benfield were always a threat when they went forward, with the experienced, prolific Brayson a thorn in Shields’ side.
He fired a warning sign late in the first half as he flashed an effort not far wide after wriggling his way through.
Benfield made a good start to the second half, and Scott McCarthy sent a decent effort past the post within seconds of the restart.
Brayson looked odds-on to level soon after, but his goal-bound effort was brilliantly blocked by Morse.
Shields started to take control again, and went close twice within a matter of seconds when Phillips had a shot blocked before Louis Storey’s header was cleared off the line.
The game seemed to be in the visitors’ grasp when Benfield defender Stephen Tobin was sent off for two bookings on 66 minutes.
However, that was far from the end of things, with Brayson again going close as he headed inches past the upright after a cross was floated in from the right.
He was again the big threat when a ball was played over the top with 13 minutes to go, and when he went down in the box, the referee adjudged he had been pulled back by Morse before producing the red card for the Shields defender.
Brayson sent Connell the wrong way from the spot to bring the hosts level with a low penalty.
Shields battled well, and went back ahead on 86 minutes when substitute Gavin Cogdon’s brilliant through ball was taken by Richardson, who rounded Grainger and tucked away his second goal of the night.
Almost immediately, though, Benfield attacked again and were awarded a second penalty when the referee ruled Alex Nicholson had handled in the area.
This time, Brayson smashed his penalty against the crossbar, and Shields were able to see out a dramatic finale.
They now progress to the semi-finals, the same stage they have also reached in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Storey (Stephenson 76), Morse, Arca (c), Nicholson, Smith (Cogdon 68), Shaw, Richardson, Phillips. Subs not used: Parkin, Simpson, Foley.
Goals: Richardson (14, 86).
Sent off: Morse (77).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.