South Shields will take a one-goal lead into the second leg of the Buildbase FA Vase semi-final after Andrew Stephenson’s 90th minute goal secured a 2-1 win at Coleshill Town.
It was a tough afternoon for the Mariners in the Midlands, and they had to come from a goal behind at the break.
David Foley levelled things up early in the second half before Stephenson turned in the winner to spark joyous celebrations among the huge travelling support.
In truth, Shields had not been at their best for much of the encounter at Pack Meadow.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton opted not to risk Gavin Cogdon or Carl Finnigan from the start, after both sustained injuries in the Durham Challenge Cup semi-final win at Consett 11 days earlier. Both did, though, make the bench.
Shields made a decent opening to the game, and Foley sliced an early effort wide from distance as the visitors fired the first warning shot.
However, Coleshill grew to have the better of the first half, with Liam Connell called into action on a number of occasions in the Mariners’ goal.
His first job was to tip over a decent free-kick from home left-back Joshua Quaynor, while he also made a good stop from Robert Evans after a swivel and shot.
The dangerous Jordan Nadat also went close early on as he received the ball with his back to goal and turned well, before his effort was well blocked by Dillon Morse.
A further opportunity came Nadat’s way when a ball over the top saw him enter a foot race with Connell, and when the Shields goalkeeper got to it first, he blasted it against the striker and out for a goal kick.
The Mariners were dangerous when they broke into attacking areas, and one decent chance came when a cross field ball was controlled by Foley, who took a touch before hitting a low effort which was blocked.
Again, though, home goalkeeper Paul Hathaway was not called into serious action.
Connell made arguably his best save of the match soon after when Nadat fired towards the top corner from distance, with the Shields stopper pulling off a superb one-handed stop to force it out for a corner.
He was finally beaten in the 45th minute when Giovanni Dainty’s dangerous ball from the left was attacked by Nadat, and although Connell did brilliantly to beat it away, the striker was there to tuck in the rebound.
Shields needed to produce a strong response after half-time, and they did just that, delivering arguably their best spell of the match in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Darren Lough was a constantly useful attacking outlet down the left, and after good work from Foley, the left-back had the first shot of the second period smothered by Hathaway.
Lough was involved in the Mariners’ equaliser, which came in the 47th minute.
After a corner was half-cleared, Lough took the ball down and played it into the feet of Stephenson on the inside-left of the box. He sent an effort arrowing towards the bottom right corner, and when Hathaway managed to parry it, Foley showed great composure to take it down on the chest and then force it over the line.
Shields pushed on, and could have went in front when Craig Baxter’s cross from the right landed perfectly onto the head of Michael Richardson, but he nodded wide.
Slowly, Coleshill began to get more of a foothold in the second half as the game again became even.
The hosts almost retook the lead when Andre Gonzales’ right-wing cross looked to be heading into the top corner, only for Connell to claw it away from danger.
There were chances at both ends, with Foley firing over on the turn for Shields before Connell pushed a low free-kick from Thomas Weale around the post.
A golden opportunity fell to substitute Finnigan within nine minutes of his introduction as Robert Briggs played him in on goal, but Hathaway was quickly out to close the angle and did well to push it away.
If that was close, Coleshill went even closer at the other end when Nadat hammered an effort against the post from 10 yards, and Richardson was on hand to clear off the line when it bounced back across goal.
The game could have gone either way, with both teams desperate to take an advantage into the second leg at Mariners Park.
Julio Arca was in excellent, determined form for Shields, and when he produced a stunning nutmeg deep inside his own half, he sent a superb ball over the top for Foley to run onto. Hathaway got there first, but his clearance fell the way of Richardson, who saw his effort from 35 yards trickle agonisingly wide as the goalkeeper desperately tried to get back on his line.
Just as it appeared the tie may be level going into the second leg, the Mariners clicked into gear again.
Substitutes Finnigan and Alex Nicholson linked up on the right to send Foley bursting into the box, and his ball across goal was diverted towards the net by Lough and then in by Stephenson, who in truth knew little about it.
It may not have been pretty, but it was enough to get Shields’ noses in front.
It was an advantage they held onto until the end, despite two scrambles inside the Mariners’ penalty area in stoppage time.
At half-time in the tie, it is Shields who hold the one-goal lead, but it is still all to play for on Saturday at Mariners Park as the two teams again go head-to-head in the battle to reach Wembley.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Briggs, Phillips (Finnigan 61), Stephenson (Smith 90+1), Richardson (Nicholson 85), Foley. Subs not used: Storey, Cogdon.
Goals: Foley (47), Stephenson (90).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields booked a place in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup after seeing off Consett with a clinical display at Belle View on Tuesday.
Star man Andrew Stephenson scored a brace, while Carl Finnigan netted a stunning volley as Shields made it 22 wins in a row.
The hosts pulled a goal back in the second half, but succumbed to a 3-1 defeat as the Mariners marched on.
They will meet Billingham Synthonia in the final of the competition at Hartlepool United’s Victoria Park on Wednesday, May 3.
Shields had to weather a storm in the early stages of the semi-final, after Consett came storming out of the blocks.
Michael Sweet headed a big chance wide at the back post, while Luke Sullivan went close to handing the Steelmen the lead when his shot across goal went narrowly wide.
Sullivan also sent a half volley over from the edge of the box, with all of that action within the first seven minutes.
Shields needed a spark and got just that in the eighth minute.
Stephenson danced his way past two defenders in the box before dinking the ball over home goalkeeper Peter Jeffries to put the Mariners in front.
Shields grew from there, and Gavin Cogdon went close to making it two when he fired just wide.
Jeffries then made an incredible save from the same player when, after Michael Richardson played in Cogdon, the goalkeeper made a stunning one-handed stop from point-blank range when the ball was almost behind him.
Finnigan also went close to sliding in a low cross from Alex Nicholson, and the closest Consett came to equalising was when Jordan Lavery flashed an effort not far over.
Shields’ second goal came on the half hour mark, and in some style.
After some fine interplay in midfield, the ball was played into the feet of Finnigan on the edge of the box. He flicked it to Cogdon, and he diverted the ball first-time over the head of a defender and into the stride of Finnigan, who struck a superb left-foot volley over Jeffries’ head and into the net.
Finnigan was withdrawn before half-time with a groin injury, and his replacement, David Foley, forced an impressive stop from Jeffries before the break.
Stephenson was also denied in stoppage time, but the Mariners were dealt another fitness blow when Cogdon had to be brought off at half-time with a hamstring injury.
It took just three minutes into the second half for Shields to make it 3-0, with Richardson getting in down the right and pulling a low ball across for Stephenson, who slotted in his second.
It was not all one-way traffic, with Consett offering a spirited response.
Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell kept out an effort from Daniel Hawkins from close range, while Dillon Morse did brilliantly to block the rebound.
Consett pulled one back with 36 minutes left when Daniel Craggs’ corner went straight in. Both Sweet and Sullivan claimed the goal, but the ball had in fact already hit part of the goal stanchion beyond the line before they both helped to force it over for a second time.
But there was no way back for the Steelmen, despite some half chances.
At the other end, Foley and Richardson narrowly failed to wrap the tie up, while Consett were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as substitute Christopher Rogan was given a straight red card for a foul on Richardson.
With that, the tie was over as Shields continued their club-record run and booked their place in the final.
They will hope to keep that going on Saturday when they travel to Sunderland RCA in Northern League Division One.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Briggs (c), Morse, Storey, Stephenson, Holden (Baxter 80), Cogdon (Arca 46), Richardson, Finnigan (Foley 41). Subs not used: Parkin, Shaw.
Goals: Stephenson (8, 48), Finnigan (30).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
A polished away performance saw South Shields claim an eighth win in a row on Saturday as they got the better of Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park.
First half goals from Andrew Stephenson and Wayne Phillips were enough for the Mariners, who always had control of the game as they showed great patience on the ball.
The result kept Shields second in Northern League Division One ahead of Saturday’s table-topping clash with leaders North Shields at Mariners Park.
The Mariners quickly got on top of a Bishops side playing catch-up in the league, having reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup earlier this season.
Julio Arca sent an early free-kick wide, and then played in important part in the opening goal on five minutes.
He stepped in on a loose pass from the hosts at the back and found Robert Briggs, who threaded a pass through for Stephenson. He took it past the goalkeeper and kept his composure to finish low into the net.
As they had done at Morpeth Town two weeks previously, the Mariners threatened to run riot in the first half, and they could have gone 2-0 up soon after the opener when a quick break led to an opportunity for Phillips, but home goalkeeper Edward Wilczynski kept his effort out.
Wilczynski also did well to keep out a low shot from David Carson after the Shields midfielder gained possession in the centre before firing from outside the area.
At the other end, there were few chances for Bishops, but one of their few first half openings came when Shields gave it away at the back, and Liam Connell saved from Priestley Griffiths.
Phillips scored the goal of the game in the 27th minute as he kept up his fine form.
He stepped in on a loose ball after running in from the right, and dribbled across the pitch before beating Wilczynski with a delightful chip from outside the box.
The hosts almost pulled a goal back eight minutes before half-time when the ball broke to Adam Nicholls, but he could only hammer a shot not far wide.
Shields started the better of the two teams in the second half, and after a number of bright moves, Stephenson went close as Wilczynski was forced into a good save.
Substitute David Foley had a great chance to put the game out of sight when Carson dribbled into space in the box before cutting the ball back to him, but he was unable to hit the target as the ball cleared the crossbar.
Connell had to be alert at the other end as Bishops tried to put him under pressure, but he was up to the task as he palmed behind a powerful low effort from James Fairley.
Danger man Andrew Johnson hit one over for the home side, while debutant Leon Carling headed over from a corner as they aimed to find a way back into the game.
Shields, for their part, tried to wrap the points up, and Briggs curled a free-kick over before Foley turned his man on the edge of the box and hit a low shot which deflected into the hands of Wilczynski.
Bishops should have pulled a goal back with 11 minutes left when the ball was played across the box to substitute Chris Winn, but he miscued in front of goal and the Mariners were able to clear.
Michael Hoganson and Fairley were also off target late on as Shields preserved their clean sheet and were rewarded for another fine performance.
Next up is the derby with North Shields on Saturday at Mariners Park, for which tickets remain available by visiting the ground or calling 0191 454 7800.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Danny Carson, Callaghan, Arca (c), Morse, Shaw, Phillips (Ramsey 72), Briggs, Finnigan (Foley 43), David Carson, Stephenson. Subs not used: Baxter, Smith, Scroggins.
Goals: Stephenson (5), Phillips (27).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.