By Daniel Prince
South Shields suffered League Cup heartbreak on Wednesday when Penrith came from 2-0 down to win after extra-time.
The Mariners had been on course for an excellent victory against their Ebac Northern League Division One opponents when they took a deserved two-goal lead into half-time after goals from Lee Maitland and Adam Sharp.
However, the hosts pulled a goal back within six minutes of the restart with a controversial penalty, and then increased the pressure.
Steven Hubery made a series of fine saves for Shields, but was finally beaten in the 92nd minute before Mariners captain Barrie Smith was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge.
Sharp had a goal controversially ruled out, before Penrith struck twice in the second period of extra-time to book their place in the next round.
Penrith had started the match in dangerous form, and Shields defender Chris Locke did well to snuff out an attack on four minutes with Ryan Hall ready to shoot.
The Mariners grew into the game, with Aron Burn glancing a header wide, while goalkeeper Hubery did well at the other end to cut out a dangerous cross.
On 11 minutes, Hubery made a tremendous one-handed save to his left to keep out Hall’s rasping free-kick, while Grant Davidson wasted a glorious chance for Penrith soon after when he sent his free header straight into Hubery’s hands.
Shields were looking dangerous themselves, though, and on 16 minutes, they took the lead.
Smith’s free-kick from the right was claimed by Penrith goalkeeper Joshua Richardson, but he dropped it straight into the path of Maitland, who reacted quickest to poke the ball into the roof of the net.
Hubery was in top form at the other end, and produced another impressive save five minutes later when he kept out a low shot from distance by Davidson.
Hall dragged an effort wide soon after, but Shields were again dangerous, with a Sharp header from Colin White’s long throw finding the hands of the goalkeeper.
The visitors enjoyed some fine pressure down the right, with Locke and James Talbot combining effectively, and some good play from the two of them almost led to a second goal on 29 minutes.
Talbot’s magnificent cross beat the defence, but arrived just too quickly at the feet of Maitland, who could not quite manoeuvre his body enough to get his shot on target.
The home side had a good spell of their own after that, with Hubery stepping in to snuff out a chance after a poor backpass and White then making two terrific blocks to deny Davidson.
Shields were the more clinical side again, though, when they went 2-0 up in the 34th minute.
Colin White’s long throw from the right was glanced on by the head of Sharp, and the ball bounced over everyone and into the net.
Talbot almost made it 3-0 two minutes later, with his cross-shot from the right causing real problems for Richardson, who flapped at it and was relieved when it bounced just over the crossbar.
Shields were looking to effectively seal the game before half-time, and David Molloy almost did just that with six minutes of the first half remaining. However, his shot from inside the box was blocked wide for a corner.
Within five minutes of the start of the second period, though, Penrith were back in it.
A through ball split the Shields defence and put Hall through on goal. Hubery rushed out of goal and appeared to make minimal contact with the striker, who went down. The referee awarded a penalty, and with the Mariners fearing the worst, a yellow card was shown to Hubery.
Jordan Little converted the penalty down the middle, and soon after a cross-shot from the dangerous Ryan Simpson went onto the roof of the net.
A volley from Sharp was saved by Richardson on the hour mark, but Penrith were the more threatening side at this point.
Hubery was on hand to prevent White scoring an own goal, while Benjamin Jackson sent a free header over.
The goalkeeper also did well to close down the angle and deny Samuel Bell a shot at goal, while Hall wasted a great chance with 15 minutes remaining as he scuffed a shot straight at Hubery.
Hubery produced a superb one-handed stop to deny Jamie Street, while Shields still held a threat of their own, with Smith flashing a low effort just wide after 80 minutes.
With six minutes left, Hall played Simpson in on goal and it appeared inevitable he would level the tie, but Hubery rushed out to close the angle and somehow forced the shot over the bar.
Shields were holding on, but in the second minute of stoppage time, their resistance was broken.
A long ball over the top was headed into the path of substitute Daniel Smales, who slotted past Hubery.
A poor period for Shields was capped by the sending off of captain Smith straight from the restart after he flew into a challenge and was given his marching orders.
That meant the Mariners had it all to do going into extra-time, and Smales sent a free header over within two minutes of the restart.
Hubery also parried an effort from Davidson in the first period, while Penrith somehow failed to take the lead in the 101st minute.
Hall smashed the post with a powerful effort on the left of the box, and the ball rebounded to Simpson. He smashed a shot goalwards, but Burn got in the way to block it and save Shields.
Simpson fired over from in front of goal soon after, while Hubery made an incredible double save in the last minute of the first period, first keeping out Simpson’s free-kick and then Street’s point-blank rebound.
Aaron Kelly hit the bar for the home side on 106 minutes, before a moment of real controversy.
Sharp seemed to outmuscle his defender before slotting Shields into the lead, but the referee blew for a foul and disallowed the goal.
Penrith took full advantage of that, and although Davidson headed a good chance wide, they took the lead on 111 minutes.
Davidson was the man who edged them into the lead when he slotted home from in front of goal.
Hall all but sealed the win two minutes later when he dinked the ball over Hubery, but the 10-man Mariners did show some fight in the closing stages.
Sharp hit the post in the 118th minute with a header from Steven Graham’s free-kick, while Alex Kempster impressed in a cameo appearance on the left.
White whistled a shot just past the post, and Molloy was denied by a good save from Richardson, who also kept out an effort from Kempster at point blank range.
At the other end, Graham was on hand to make a goal-line clearance, while there was still time for Hubery to make another tremendous save from Davidson before the referee called time on the game.
It was a frustrating night for Shields, who had looked set to pull off an impressive win before Penrith’s fight back.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Washington for a 3pm kick-off in Ebac Northern League Division Two.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hubery, Locke, Pickering (Graham 76), Burn, White, Maitland (Kempster 116), Talbot, Smith (c), Sharp, Molloy, Conroy (Ramsey 68). Subs not used: Salim.
Goals: Maitland (16), Sharp (34).
Booked: Hubery, Locke.
Sent off: Smith (90+3).