South Shields 1 VS 2 Hartlepool United
South Shields' brilliant run in the Emirates FA Cup came to an end as Hartlepool United battled back from a goal down to win a tight encounter at Mariners Park.
The Mariners held a 1-0 lead at half-time thanks to a well-taken goal by Carl Finnigan which created pandemonium in the stands.
They had chances to go further ahead, with Matty Pattison hitting the bar and seeing another effort saved at point-blank range by impressive Pools goalkeeper Scott Loach.
Hartlepool struck twice in five second half minutes to turn the fourth qualifying round tie on its head, and although Shields battled for an equaliser, they ultimately fell just short against the National League side.
It brought their superb run in the competition to an end, after they had beaten Bridlington Town, Witton Albion, Darlington and York City to put themselves within a win of the first round.
It was always set to be a difficult task against a Hartlepool side which had lost just once in all competitions since August.
Craig Harrison's men started brightly and were looking dangerous. A teasing cross from the right by Devante Rodney was scrambled away by Shields, while a delivery from the opposite flank eventually fell to the feet of Jack Munns, who forced Jack Norton into a decent save.
More chances came as a Jonathan Franks strike from distance was deflected out for a corner, from which Rodney flicked a shot over.
Shields then started to get a foothold in the game, and tested Loach for the first time when the former Watford stopper did well to punch a Craig Baxter cross away from danger.
Pattison and Robert Briggs hit efforts wide from distance as the Mariners were given further encouragement, and it felt like something was brewing.
And then it came. A ball over the top from Jon Shaw was chested down by Finnigan on the inside-right of the box, and he slotted a superb finish under Loach to break the deadlock.
The Mariners got better as the half progressed, and had some great opportunities to extend their lead before half-time.
At the other end, Norton saved from Nicky Deverdics and Franks, before a six-minute spell from Shields that could have seen them claim a convincing lead.
The best chance fell the way of Pattison as he was found by a Finnigan flick, but Loach made a tremendous stop from point-blank range to keep Pools' deficit at one.
Finnigan had a superb chance after being found by a low Baxter pass, but he could only hook over the bar.
Loach was beaten again as the half ticked into stoppage time, with Pattison arrowing a superb effort against the crossbar. The ball went out for a goal-kick which was miscued by Loach to Cogdon, but he could only screw wide.
Hartlepool will have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle, and they were improved after the break.
Nicky Featherstone struck a shot wide from long range before the visitors got back on level terms with 53 minutes played.
Shields had chances to clear their lines but were unable to get the ball out of the danger zone, and when the ball fell to Rodney, he placed a brilliant effort out of the reach of Norton and into the bottom corner.
A hectic few minutes followed, with Briggs and Julio Arca having attempts to restore the Mariners' advantage, while Norton did well to save a deflected strike from Franks at the other end.
The goal to nudge Pools in front came just before the hour mark, with Deverdics smashing a terrific free-kick into the corner from 30 yards.
The game had been turned on its head and suddenly it was Shields chasing an equaliser.
They almost got it when a brilliant pass through the centre by Cogdon put Finnigan through on goal, but Loach sensed the danger and had closed the angle before the Shields man got to it, and then produced a fine save.
After that, it became difficult for the Mariners to break down their opponents as Hartlepool did a good job of closing the game out.
Most of the hosts' efforts were from distance, with Pattison having one deflected wide while Finnigan also hit one past the post.
There were two penalty appeals in the closing stages, but both were turned down by the officials. The first came as a Finnigan run appeared to be blocked, while the other was more half-hearted as a shout for handball came to nothing.
Hartlepool did the job of seeing out their victory well and can look forward to Monday's first round draw.
The Mariners, meanwhile, return to action on Tuesday as they host Farsley Celtic in the Integro League Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Norton, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Stephenson 67), Smith (Richardson 77), Briggs, Cogdon, Pattison, Finnigan. Subs not used: Connell, Storey, Lough, Nicholson, Sullivan.
Goal: Finnigan (25).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.