South Shields 0-1 Shildon: Youthful Mariners fall to narrow loss in Durham Challenge Cup final
A youthful South Shields were narrowly beaten in the Durham Challenge Cup final by Shildon on Friday.
Less than 24 hours before the Mariners were due to take on Warrington Town in the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs, Lee Picton and Graham Fenton were forced to make a number of changes to their team.
A side featuring many of the club’s brightest academy talents shone and dominated much of the final at the Stadium of Light, but their hard work was undone by a header from Shildon’s Billy Greulich-Smith early in the second half.
The Mariners had created numerous opportunities before Shildon went in front.
Dan Wright prodded a decent opportunity wide early on after good work by Ethan Biwer, while Olly Scott also saw a deflected effort saved.
Shields midfielder Arron Thompson was arguably the best player on the pitch and he almost broke the deadlock when his terrific strike from distance arrowed just wide.
Connor Bell had a big chance to put the Mariners ahead when Jordan Patterson played him in on goal, but his shot across goal was saved by Shaun Newbrook.
Shields continued to create opportunities and went close again as a Max Cowburn free-kick stung the hands of Newbrook.
Gary Brown and Cowburn also went close before half-time and the Mariners would have returned to the dressing room wondering how they were not leading.
Shildon improved at the start of the second half and opening the scoring in the 56th minute as Greulich-Smith rose highest to head in a cross from the right.
That initially stung the Mariners, but they gradually gained control again and almost equalised as Cowburn fired inches wide from a Scott cross.
Shields had two strong penalty appeals turned down and introduced Anthony Callaghan midway through the second half for his first appearance for the club since Boxing Day 2017.
One final chance fell the way of the superb Thompson as he met a low cross from the left by Scott, but his shot went just past the post.
Shields were left to reflect on what might have been but now switch their attentions to Saturday’s huge play-off tie against Warrington at Mariners Park.
A bumper crowd is expected and fans will be able to pay at the turnstiles.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lister, Mouanda, Scott, Thompson, Patterson, Brown (c) (Lockey 58), Guy (Callaghan 67), Biwer, Bell (Harmison 72), Wright, Cowburn. Subs not used: Ross, Colquhoun.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.