South Shields 3-0 Birtley Town
By Philip Reay
South Shields booked their place in the semi-finals of the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup with a fine 3-0 win over Birtley Town at Peterlee on Tuesday.
Lee Maitland, Stephen Ramsey and James Talbot were on the scoresheet as the Mariners set up a semi-final trip to Billingham Town.
The game was held up for 15 minutes due to fog drifting in off the sea, but when things did get underway, Shields started on the front foot.
They soon had the Birtley defence under pressure as Talbot attacked down the right flank before firing a cross into the box for Ramsey, but his shot flew wide of the post.
The Shields pressure eventually bore fruit on 16 minutes. Once again, Talbot tormented the Birtley defence on the right before crossing the ball into the centre of the box where it was met by Maitland, and he headed the ball beyond the reach of Sean Hall.
Despite continuing to dominate proceedings, the hosts were unable to increase their advantage.
On the half-hour, Talbot again outpaced his marker before crossing to Chris Rue, but he was unable to trouble Hall in the Birtley goal.
Within a minute, the Birtley defence was again under pressure, and a Talbot corner found Ramsey in space, and the striker made no mistake as he fired home from 15 yards to double the home side’s advantage.
At the start of the second half, Shields again went close.
They were awarded a free-kick on the left flank that was fired into the box by Chris Feasey towards Aron Burn, and he drove the ball towards the top corner of the goal, only to be denied by a fingertip save by Hall.
On the hour, Barrie Smith won the ball inside the Shields half and raced through the Birtley defence before slipping the ball to Talbot, but he saw his shot fly inches wide.
The Mariners continued to press forward, and on 65 minutes Feasey outpaced his marker before crossing to Rue – now playing in a more advanced role – but his spectacular effort cleared the crossbar.
With 15 minutes remaining, Jon King made the first of his substitutions, with Ryan Bolam replacing Ramsey, while a minute later Dan Pickering replaced Chris Locke.
In the closing minutes of the game, Talbot capped a superb individual performance with a well-taken goal.
He collected the ball on the edge of the box before sending the ball beyond the reach of Hall to give the Mariners a three-goal advantage.
King made his final substitution, with Baptiste Fixot replacing Smith.
Shields now travel to Billingham Town in the semi-final, and the tie will take place on Tuesday, March 3.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lawson, Locke (c) (D Pickering 76), Turner, Burn, Riding, Maitland, Rue, Smith (Fixot 88), Ramsey (Bolam 75), Talbot, Feasey. Subs not used: Crutwell, Hubery.
Goals: Maitland (16), Ramsey (32), Talbot (87).