South Shields 0-4 West Auckland Town
By Daniel Prince
South Shields put up a strong fight on Tuesday against West Auckland Town, but were ultimately undone by the brilliance of substitute Dennis Knight.
Visitors West Auckland were the heavy favourites for the Durham Challenge Cup tie, but the Mariners held out for 74 minutes before four late goals gave the scoreline a top-heavy look.
Northern League Division One side West introduced Knight from the bench on 62 minutes, and he proved the difference with a stunning 12-minute hat-trick.
Knight was on the books of Newcastle United until February 2013 having come through their youth ranks, before joining Barnsley.
He only left Barnsley for West Auckland in November, and he was just too hot to handle for a tiring Shields outfit, who had not played since December 28.
With Knight on the bench, the visitors started strongly.
Daryll Hall saw a header palmed wide by Jak Wells on 16 minutes, before the same player had another terrific header cleared off the line from the resulting corner.
Warren Byrne should have opened the scoring for the Division One side five minutes later after excellent work on the left from Stuart Banks.
Byrne sidestepped two defenders and got into a terrific position in front of goal, before firing well over when he looked sure to score.
More good work from Banks on the left soon set up an opportunity for Phil Bannister, who hooked it wide at the near post.
Shields were on the back foot, but after the half-hour mark started to make a real impact in the game.
First, a ball over the top gave Anthony Burnell a decent chance, but last man Adam Wilkinson made a great tackle to deny him a shot at goal.
Burnell had a better chance on 36 minutes after goalkeeper Jordan Nixon flapped at a cross, but he was unable to get clean contact on an overhead kick with the net empty.
Wells had to stay sharp at the other end and made a decent save from Bannister, before stopping a deflected effort from Ashley Coffey just moments before half-time.
Shields went into the break feeling good having kept the visitors at bay and gradually fought their way into it.
The Mariners should have got their reward just a minute into the second half, when terrific work from Luke Richardson sent Burnell through on goal.
Just inside the box on the left, Burnell dragged his left foot shot wide when he should have hit the target.
Another chance soon followed when Burnell’s flick-on was pounced on by David Bulman, but he could only smash his effort over from just outside the box.
Knight was introduced by West Auckland on 62 minutes, and the game then turned in the visitors’ favour.
Just three minutes after coming on, Knight’s dangerous free-kick was well headed to safety by Ben Riding, but the warning signs were there for Shields, with the sub taking over set-piece duties.
Banks had a good opportunity for West on 67 minutes, but with a team-mate free in the centre, opted to shoot and saw his effort go wide.
The stalemate was almost ended by West Auckland’s Byrne in the 72nd minute, after he broke through the defence and latched onto the ball despite looking suspiciously offside.
With Shields appealing to no avail, Byrne rounded the keeper and looked certain to score, only for Richardson to brilliantly clear his effort off the line.
The Mariners’ reprieve did not last long, though, after Wells’ poor clearance on 74 minutes went straight to the opposition.
The ball eventually fell the way of Knight on the left-edge of the box, and after he saw his first effort blocked, he sent the second flying into the top corner with a powerful left-foot shot.
Bulman fired an effort over for Shields just a minute after they fell behind, but Knight was proving to be a menace.
He grabbed his second on 83 minutes when he cut inside from the right before rifling a low shot past Wells, who stood no chance.
West Auckland were by now piling on the pressure in search of more goals, but substitute Matthew Moffat was denied by a brilliant goal-line clearance from Chris Locke in what was Shields’ third last-ditch save of the match.
The visitors’ third duly arrived though four minutes from the end, with Banks’ cross from the left finding Knight, who picked his spot with a header to complete his hat-trick.
His influence on the game was not over, though, and he played a huge part in West Auckland’s fourth and last goal.
Knight sprayed a pass from the halfway line perfectly into the path of Banks just inside the box on the right, and although his effort was saved, Byrne was on hand to tap in the rebound.
The scoreline was harsh on Shields having held out for so long, but ultimately the brilliance of the West Auckland substitute proved too much.
Jon King’s Mariners will look to get back to winning ways on Saturday, when they play host to Brandon United at Peterlee in a league fixture.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Wells, Hall (Young 79), Locke, White (Clark 63), Riding, Clarke, Richardson, Cutts, Burnell, Bulman, Feasey (c) (Houshby 72). Subs not used: Greenwell, Smith.
WEST AUCKLAND: Nixon, Pattinson, Green (c), Hall, Wilkinson, Coffey, Vipond, Henderson (Knight 62), Byrne, Bannister (Moffat 56), Banks. Subs not used: Gibson, Garthwaite, Richardson.
Goals: Knight (74, 83, 86), Byrne (90).