Jason Gilchrist scored two and set up another as South Shields booked their place in the third qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy with a comfortable 4-0 victory over AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
Gilchrist was joined on the scoresheet by Adam Thurston and Lee Mason on a day which ensured the Mariners would at least equal their best run in the competition since reforming in 1974.
They can now look forward to the draw for the next round on Monday as they bid to secure a spot in the first round for the first time.
Shields’ performance was as convincing as the result at Mariners Park on Saturday, despite a bright opening by the Diamonds.
The home side created the first half-chance of the tie as they opened up their visitors within the first 40 seconds before Blair Adams’ shot was blocked.
Myles Boney was called into action in the opening five minutes as the Diamonds were twice unable to make the most of openings, with efforts from Liam Dolman and Ben Farrell lacking the strength to seriously test the goalkeeper.
Shields soon hit their stride and pressed the away team relentlessly, repeatedly reaping the rewards.
They almost opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Gilchrist was played in on the left of the box and pulled a great ball across the area for strike partner Sanmi Odelusi, but he slid an effort wide on the stretch.
The Mariners were relentless in their pursuit of the first goal and after Diamonds goalkeeper Ben Heath saved a drive from Odelusi, he made an even better stop from Gilchrist, who had been found following some great play from Odelusi and Thurston on the left of the area.
The attacks kept coming and another fine chance came and went as Thurston struck an effort from distance which was parried by Heath to the onrushing Jordan Hunter, who powered the ball over the bar.
After failing to score in their previous game against Lancaster City despite a positive performance, Shields must have been wondering if it would prove to be another one of those days.
However, their fears were allayed in the 22nd minute as Gilchrist fired them ahead in ruthless style.
A Robert Briggs corner from the right evaded everyone and fell to the feet of the striker just inside the area on the left. He slammed a shot through a sea of bodies and into the bottom corner to break the deadlock with a superb finish.
Shields thought they were set to net number two in their next attack as Gilchrist teed up Adams, whose excellent run was not rewarded as Heath made an impressive save from close range.
The second goal did arrive before the half-hour mark after some terrific work from Nathan Lowe and Thurston in the centre of the park.
Lowe beat his man with a brilliant turn 10 yards inside the Diamonds half and glided forward before spotting the run of Thurston, who ghosted in between the defenders and slotted the ball home as he met his team-mate’s pass first time.
The visitors threatened to half the deficit seven minutes into the second half as Ben Acquaye fired goalwards from distance but Boney was equal to his effort and Shields countered at pace, with Lowe having a goalbound shot blocked at the end of it.
The Mariners made it three halfway through the second period thanks to a hugely impressive piece of individual play from Gilchrist as he drove forward from just inside the Diamonds half, jinked past a defender and picked out the bottom corner from the edge of the box to double his tally for the afternoon.
Gilchrist turned provider for the final goal as he won the ball brilliantly on the right flank, forced his way into the area and put it on a plate for substitute Mason to score from close range.
It capped a fine afternoon’s work for the Mariners as they secured their place in the next round.
Their next outing will see them travel to Stafford Rangers in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown (Wokoma 68), Thurston, Briggs (c) (Baxter 66), Gilchrist, Lowe, Odelusi (Mason 58). Subs not used: Coombe, Charlton, Jenkins, Hodgson.
Goals: Gilchrist (22, 67), Thurston (29), Mason (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
We are very much looking forward to welcoming AFC Rushden and Diamonds to Mariners Park on Saturday for the first meeting between the clubs.
The Buildbase FA Trophy second qualifying round tie will kick-off at 3pm, with the turnstiles set to open at 12.30pm.
Season tickets and sponsor passes are not valid for this game as it is an FA fixture.
Admission can be secured at the turnstiles at a cost of £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s. To save queuing at the turnstiles, you can buy tickets before midnight on Friday by clicking here.
However, those with a season ticket entitling them to a seat in the stand should bring their season ticket to the match as their seat will be kept reserved for them. They will simply need to pay the usual admission price at the turnstiles, with no extra cost for the seats.
The same applies to those with a season ticket on the balcony. If they show their balcony season ticket at the bar in the Barbour Lounge, they will be presented with a wristband admitting them onto the balcony.
Those with sponsor passes should also bring them to the game, as this will gain them entry to the Shipley Heating Lounge on matchday.
The club shop – now stocked with new Puma hats and scarves, both priced at £12 – will be open from 12.30pm.
Our usual Happy Hours will be in operation between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, and from 5pm to 6pm.
During those times, pints of Foster’s, Strongbow and John Smith’s will be available for £2, with Birra Moretti available for £2.50.
Meanwhile, all children with a valid match ticket will be admitted onto the Matchday Play Park, which takes place on the 3G pitch between 1.30pm and 2.30pm.
South Shields meet AFC Rushden and Diamonds on Saturday as the clubs battle for a place in the third qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy.
The match marks the first meeting between the sides, who play at equivalent levels and have enjoyed a similar rise through the leagues over recent years.
Shields have secured three promotions since the 2015-16 campaign, with the Diamonds having earned the same amount of promotions since they formed in 2011.
The club was founded following the collapse of former Football League outfit Rushden and Diamonds FC, and they currently sit 13th in the BetVictor Southern Premier Central.
The Mariners go into the game following last Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to Lancaster City in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
It was Shields’ third league match in a row without a win, but joint manager Lee Picton has reiterated the faith he has in his squad.
He said: “I actually thought we played OK last Saturday, and well at times.
“Football is a funny old game though and sometimes it’s just not your day, and that was an example of that.
“I’m not saying we were brilliant by any stretch, but we showed a lot more endeavour and a lot more positivity on the ball than in our previous home game.
“They seemed to get all the bounces and all the deflections, and scored from a set-piece, which was disappointing from our perspective.
“We showed some real positive things and we’ve just had to dust ourselves down and move on.”
Picton is expecting a difficult match at Mariners Park on Saturday.
He added: “It’s a slightly different focus for us and an opportunity to hopefully build some confidence up if we can get our performance right.
“As always, though, we’re expecting a tough test against another team which will be determined to come to Mariners and leave with a positive result.
“The last three results in the league have been really disappointing from our perspective but if you had said to us before the start of the season we’d have 32 points after 15 games and be top of the league, I’d have taken that.
“Now we have an opportunity to progress further in the FA Trophy, which is a competition we want to do really well in.”
Shields go into the game without captain Jon Shaw (calf) and remain without Josh Gillies (hernia) and Luke Daly (knee).
They expect to welcome back Lee Mason after he narrowly missed out on the Lancaster game with a leg injury.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission prices – which can be paid at the turnstiles – are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.