South Shields 4 VS 0 Rushden and Diamonds
Jason Gilchrist scored two and set up another as South Shields booked their place in the third qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy with a comfortable 4-0 victory over AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
Gilchrist was joined on the scoresheet by Adam Thurston and Lee Mason on a day which ensured the Mariners would at least equal their best run in the competition since reforming in 1974.
They can now look forward to the draw for the next round on Monday as they bid to secure a spot in the first round for the first time.
Shields’ performance was as convincing as the result at Mariners Park on Saturday, despite a bright opening by the Diamonds.
The home side created the first half-chance of the tie as they opened up their visitors within the first 40 seconds before Blair Adams’ shot was blocked.
Myles Boney was called into action in the opening five minutes as the Diamonds were twice unable to make the most of openings, with efforts from Liam Dolman and Ben Farrell lacking the strength to seriously test the goalkeeper.
Shields soon hit their stride and pressed the away team relentlessly, repeatedly reaping the rewards.
They almost opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Gilchrist was played in on the left of the box and pulled a great ball across the area for strike partner Sanmi Odelusi, but he slid an effort wide on the stretch.
The Mariners were relentless in their pursuit of the first goal and after Diamonds goalkeeper Ben Heath saved a drive from Odelusi, he made an even better stop from Gilchrist, who had been found following some great play from Odelusi and Thurston on the left of the area.
The attacks kept coming and another fine chance came and went as Thurston struck an effort from distance which was parried by Heath to the onrushing Jordan Hunter, who powered the ball over the bar.
After failing to score in their previous game against Lancaster City despite a positive performance, Shields must have been wondering if it would prove to be another one of those days.
However, their fears were allayed in the 22nd minute as Gilchrist fired them ahead in ruthless style.
A Robert Briggs corner from the right evaded everyone and fell to the feet of the striker just inside the area on the left. He slammed a shot through a sea of bodies and into the bottom corner to break the deadlock with a superb finish.
Shields thought they were set to net number two in their next attack as Gilchrist teed up Adams, whose excellent run was not rewarded as Heath made an impressive save from close range.
The second goal did arrive before the half-hour mark after some terrific work from Nathan Lowe and Thurston in the centre of the park.
Lowe beat his man with a brilliant turn 10 yards inside the Diamonds half and glided forward before spotting the run of Thurston, who ghosted in between the defenders and slotted the ball home as he met his team-mate’s pass first time.
The visitors threatened to half the deficit seven minutes into the second half as Ben Acquaye fired goalwards from distance but Boney was equal to his effort and Shields countered at pace, with Lowe having a goalbound shot blocked at the end of it.
The Mariners made it three halfway through the second period thanks to a hugely impressive piece of individual play from Gilchrist as he drove forward from just inside the Diamonds half, jinked past a defender and picked out the bottom corner from the edge of the box to double his tally for the afternoon.
Gilchrist turned provider for the final goal as he won the ball brilliantly on the right flank, forced his way into the area and put it on a plate for substitute Mason to score from close range.
It capped a fine afternoon’s work for the Mariners as they secured their place in the next round.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown (Wokoma 68), Thurston, Briggs (c) (Baxter 66), Gilchrist, Lowe, Odelusi (Mason 58). Subs not used: Coombe, Charlton, Jenkins, Hodgson.
Goals: Gilchrist (22, 67), Thurston (29), Mason (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.