Billingham Synthonia 2 VS 1 South Shields
South Shields suffered a night of frustration as they exited the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup despite creating a succession of clear-cut chances at Billingham Synthonia.
The Mariners were in the ascendancy for much of the game, and hit the woodwork three times before substitute John Grey scored with four minutes of the quarter-final remaining.
However, by then it was almost too late for Shields, who had fallen 2-0 behind in the first half to two Sam Garvie penalties.
Despite piling on the pressure in the closing stages, they were unable to force a dramatic equaliser to take it to extra-time as their hopes in the competition were ended.
It was a second defeat in less than a month for Shields at Synthonia, who had claimed a dramatic smash-and-grab victory in the league fixture in late-January.
The Mariners will have left Billingham with a sense of deja vu after a similarly dominant performance in the quarter-final, although this time they were able to convert their possession into chances, unlike the league fixture.
The first opportunity came less than two minutes in after Martyn Coleman charged down the right and pulled back a cross which hit a home defender and was goal-bound before being cleared by the man on the line.
Julio Arca was the next provider as he lofted a superb ball over the top for Coleman, and the former Penrith striker sent a dipping half volley just wide.
Shields continued to press, and had a number of half-chances before Synthonia broke away and were awarded a penalty when Ibby Hassan fouled Garvie in the box.
Garvie picked himself up and made no mistake from the spot as he sent Scott Pocklington the wrong way, with the ball nestling in the bottom corner.
The game continued with much the same pattern as the Mariners pinned their opponents back, and Robert Briggs must have thought he had levelled when his sweet free-kick struck the inside of the post, only for it to then bounce to safety.
A Michael Turner long throw then fell the way of Coleman, and after he had shown good strength to hold off his man, he was denied by an impressive save by home goalkeeper Barry Poskett, who would continue to thwart Jon King's side throughout the 90 minutes.
He also denied Foley, whose crisp strike was destined for the top corner on 18 minutes, while Briggs had one shot blocked and another saved.
Again, though, Shields were caught out at the other end, and Michael Turner fouled Garvie in a position the referee adjudged to be just inside the box.
Again, Garvie picked his spot from 12 yards, sending the ball low into the bottom corner, despite Pocklington guessing the correct way this time.
That gave Shields a lot to do against a resolute defence, but with the quantity of chances they were creating, they would have remained confident.
In the period between the goal and half-time, though, their opportunities were limited, although Coleman did have a good sight of goal after a Briggs free-kick was dropped by Poskett, but he fired over.
The Mariners went in at the break facing a two-goal deficit, and at the start of the second half, they pressed for an early way back into it.
Coleman chipped the goalkeeper, but saw his effort scrambled away by a defender, while Hassan headed not far over from a Briggs free-kick and Turner had a header cleared off the line before Coleman hit one over.
Turner drove down the left flank eight minutes into the second period, and his effort flashed across the box to no avail.
Lewis Teasdale was introduced from the bench soon after, and almost made an immediate impact when he let fly with a stunning shot from 30 yards, but Poskett clawed the effort to safety.
Arca then conjured up a chance for Coleman with a lofted ball in from the left, but the striker was just unable to stretch enough to turn it home.
It felt as though a goal was coming, and it almost arrived on 58 minutes when a ball into the box from the right glanced off a home defender into the path of Foley in front of goal, but he was unable to react quickly enough and could only touch it wide.
It was not until Foley picked up the ball from distance with 13 minutes left that Shields seriously threatened again. Out of nothing, he unleashed a stunning shot which rattled the crossbar and appeared to spark the Mariners into life.
With the travelling support still fully behind their team, there was still time for Shields to salvage their place in the cup, but the game appeared to be up with five minutes remaining when a ball into the area eventually fell to Scroggins, but he could only hit the post.
Less than a minute later, though, the Mariners threw themselves a lifeline when Coleman rolled his man on the inside-right of the box before passing the ball across goal, where Grey was on hand to convert.
That made it a nervy ending for Synthonia, and almost immediately from the restart, Foley attacked with purpose down the left before cutting inside and firing a shot wide.
Soon after, big chances in the box fell to Grey and Mechack Kanda, but both saw their efforts blocked.
An even better opportunity fell the way of Coleman a minute into stoppage time when he turned in the penalty area before hitting towards goal, and the ball hit the chest of Poskett from point-blank range as the hosts again survived.
Shields threw bodies forward, and from a Foley corner, Teasdale did not miss the target by far before Briggs had a shot blocked and Coleman had an effort deflected over as time ticked away.
Somehow, the Mariners could not find more than one goal on a night they created a multitude of clear-cut chances, and it was Synthonia who progressed to the semi-finals of the competition.
Shields will hope to recover from the disappointment on Saturday, when Chester-le-Street Town visit Mariners Park for a league match between two promotion contenders.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Turner, Hall (Grey 69), Hassan, Arca (Kanda 77), Foley, Scroggins (c), Coleman, Briggs, Phillips (Teasdale 54). Subs not used: Young.
Goal: Grey (86).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.