South Shields won their third trophy of a remarkable season with an emphatic 5-0 victory over North Shields in the League Cup final on Saturday.
The Mariners were rampant at Hillheads, with Gavin Cogdon netting a hat-trick, while Jon Shaw and Carl Finnigan were also on the scoresheet.
The win saw Shields add the League Cup to the Northern League Division One and Durham Challenge Cup titles they had already secured this season, and set them up perfectly for the trip to Wembley for the FA Vase final.
It also sealed the Mariners’ first success in the League Cup since 2010, when they beat Ashington on penalties in the final, and was the biggest margin of victory seen in the final of the competition for 58 years.
It had been expected to be a tight contest as the two former league title rivals went head-to-head, but South Shields almost immediately got on top of their opponents to set the tone.
The Robins, though, created the first half opportunity, with Liam Connell called into action to parry an effort from Dan Wilson which never looked like troubling the goalkeeper.
Less than five minutes were on the clock when Cogdon broke the deadlock.
After captain Julio Arca – back in the team after serving a two-match suspension for his red card in last month’s league fixture between the sides – won the ball in the middle, Cogdon got hold of it 25 yards out. There was only one thing on his mind, and he unleashed a dipping effort which found the bottom of the net.
The Mariners kept their foot on the gas, and got their rewards.
In the 13th minute, Shaw made a great run across the six-yard box to get on the end of an in-swinging corner by Alex Nicholson, and his deft header had enough on it to squirm past North Shields goalkeeper Kyle Hayes and double the South Shields advantage.
As they have done on numerous occasions in big matches this season, the Mariners had enjoyed a dream start, and the outcome did not appear to be in any danger.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Carl Finnigan had an effort deflected narrowly wide as South Shields threatened to run riot.
The Robins were struggling to make much of an impression going forward, but sparked into life just before the half-hour mark when a fine move led to an effort from Stuart Donnison which went wide.
The Mariners looked the more likely team to score next, and knew another goal would all but seal a third trophy of the season.
Their moment arrived when the tireless Finnigan won the ball midway inside the North Shields half and his flicked pass took a deflection before going beyond the defence. Cogdon looked unlikely to get to it, but showed superb desire to outpace his marker and then nudge the ball past Hayes and into the bottom corner.
He could have had a first half hat-trick soon after when he was found by a ball from Arca down the left and then wriggled into a shooting position in the box, but he blasted an effort over the bar.
A half chance from distance apiece came and went before half-time as the Mariners maintained their healthy advantage.
North Shields needed a huge – and swift – response after the break, and the signs were good for Jon McDonald’s side when they tested Connell in the first minute of the second half, with the goalkeeper holding a firm effort from Wilson.
That was not a sign of things to come, though, and almost immediately, South Shields worked a decent opening of their own before Cogdon had an attempt blocked.
Arca curled a free-kick not far past the post before the Mariners were handed a golden opportunity for goal number four.
Barrie Smith’s pass was touched past defender Kevin Hughes by Finnigan, who raced onto the loose ball himself and got there before Hayes, who dived at his feet and gave away a penalty.
Cogdon tucked the spot-kick into the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick and claim his 30th goal of the season as the final started to become a rout.
The period following the fourth goal was something of a procession as the Mariners kept possession and seemed content to just wait for any further opportunities which came their way.
The fifth goal arrived almost out of nothing. Smith moved the ball on to Finnigan 25 yards out, and he looked up before sending a swerving effort into the bottom corner to bring up his 30th goal of the campaign in stunning fashion.
In what have become familiar scenes this season, champagne was sprayed and the trophy was held aloft as South Shields’ remarkable season reached another high.
There is just one challenge remaining. All roads lead to Wembley on May 21.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Lough, Shaw (Petrache 78), Storey, Arca (c), Smith, Phillips (Briggs 44), Cogdon, Stephenson (Foley 64), Finnigan. Sub not used: Richardson.
Goals: Cogdon (5, 33, pen 56), Shaw (13), Finnigan (81).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.