South Shields booked their place in the first qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy as they impressively won 5-2 at Scarborough Athletic on Saturday.
The Mariners scored four times in a scintillating first half performance, with two goals from Carl Finnigan, as well as one each from Gavin Cogdon and Matty Pattison, putting them into a commanding position.
Boro found the net twice themselves in the opening 45 minutes, including in stoppage time, to give themselves hope heading into the second half.
They battled well, particularly in the closing stages, but despite hitting the woodwork twice they were unable to set up a grandstand finish.
A controlled finish from substitute Andrew Stephenson late on wrapped up the Mariners’ victory and set up a trip to Farsley Celtic in the next round of the competition on Saturday, October 28.
Shields produced some of their most free-flowing football of the season so far in the first half at the Flamingo Land Stadium, and should perhaps have found the net even more than the four times they did.
They were on top from the outset, with Finnigan having a low shot saved in the third minute.
He went even closer soon after as he moved into space on the inside-left of the box and was found by Robert Briggs, before sliding an effort just past the upright.
It was an entertaining start which set the tone for the rest of the half, and Scarborough did possess a danger, particularly through Max Wright on the right flank.
Wright – who was sent off in the league meeting between the sides in August – had a sight of goal early on, but his strike was well held by Jack Norton in the Shields goal.
That was a rare blip in a blistering opening to the game from Shields, but they had to be patient to break the deadlock.
Finnigan saw a sweet hit from 20 yards held by home goalkeeper Tom Taylor, who also denied Pattison as he pounced on a loose backpass.
Boro couldn’t keep the visitors out for long, though, and the opener arrived in the 14th minute.
Julio Arca won possession in midfield for Shields and Pattison then helped the ball onto Barrie Smith. His pass gave Cogdon something to chase down the left and he outpaced home defender Matty Turnbull before turning him inside-out and firing into the roof of the net.
The Mariners’ lead was wiped out on 25 minutes when Michael Coulson’s well-hit free-kick from 25 yards appeared to strike the back of Anthony Callaghan in the Shields wall and wrongfoot Norton before finding the net.
The home side’s parity did not last for long as Shields restored their lead. Briggs sprayed a free-kick from the centre circle out to Craig Baxter on the right, and he carried the ball down the flank before crossing for Finnigan, who was initially beaten to the ball by Taylor. However, the Boro goalkeeper was unable to keep it under control and the ball dropped at the feet of Finnigan, who put it in at the second attempt.
It was one of three goals the Mariners would score in a devastating five-minute spell to take a firm grip on the tie.
The next came as Briggs played a superb ball into the feet of Pattison on the edge of the box, and he worked it onto his left foot before curling a glorious effort into the top corner.
Scarborough pushed for a goal to get them back into the game and were picked off on the break as Shields added a fourth. Arca clipped a perfectly-weighted ball down the left for Cogdon to run onto and again he got the better of Turnbull before squaring for Finnigan, who made no mistake as he added his second of the afternoon.
Boro pulled one back as the half ticked into stoppage time as Luke Dean’s effort from the edge of the box took a deflection before nestling in the bottom corner.
The goal will have changed the teamtalk of joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton somewhat, but the Mariners had chances to kill the game off in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Cogdon carried the ball down the right before angling a powerful low effort across goal that Taylor did well to palm away.
He should have scored his second of the match soon afterwards as he raced onto a flick-on from Finnigan and found himself one-on-one with Taylor. Cogdon looked sure to find the net, but his clipped effort went past the post.
He was also off-target after getting on the end of a ball from Pattison, but they were rare blips in a terrific performance from the frontman on his 50th appearance for the club.
Boro enjoyed a better spell towards the end of the game as they started to put Shields under pressure, knowing that one goal could change the complexion of the tie and make it a nervy ending for the away side.
Ross Daly, Dean and Coulson all had decent attempts from distance, before Wright hit the bar when he climbed highest and met a left-wing cross with a header.
Dean also hit the woodwork with a piledriver from long range, while substitute Nathan Curtis was unable to convert a delivery from the right as he nodded wide.
They were unable to score what could have proved to be an important third goal, though, and were again punished on the counter by a slick Shields team.
A dangerous free-kick from Scarborough was cleared and, as the hosts looked to recycle the ball and launch another attack, a misplaced pass let the Mariners in. Finnigan forced a ball through for Stephenson to run onto, and he kept it under control as he ran into the box before a cool finish across Taylor found the bottom corner.
It was a deserved and entertaining victory for the Mariners as they marked their first taste of action in the FA Trophy since the club reformed in 1974 in good style.
They now have a week to prepare for their latest cup quest, as they host Hartlepool United in the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Norton, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Smith (Stephenson 66), Briggs, Cogdon (Sullivan 83), Pattison (Lough 71), Finnigan. Subs not used: Connell, Richardson.
Goals: Cogdon (14), Finnigan (33, 37), Pattison (36), Stephenson (87).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.