David Foley turned in a virtuoso performance as his fantastic four put Blyth Town to the sword on Tuesday.
The Mariners were in danger of falling victim to a League Cup upset at Mariners Park as Northern League Division Two side Blyth took a 2-1 lead into half-time.
However, Foley inspired Shields to victory as they became rampant in the closing stages, and in the end he could have had even more than four goals to his name.
Malky Morien had been a constant danger to the home back-line, particularly in the first half. He fired over from a tight angle early on, and the striker always looked like Blyth’s biggest threat.
David Robinson also whistled an effort across the face of goal as Blyth caused the Shields defence some problems.
However, Foley injected the first bit of true quality into the game to hand the Mariners the lead.
Craig Baxter rolled the ball into his feet 25 yards out, and he took a touch before rifling a left foot effort into the bottom corner.
David Carson was unlucky not to add to the scoring when he went on a fine dribble before seeing his top corner-bound effort tipped over by Mathew Crook. That came just after Foley had another shot blocked.
Shields looked likely to add to the scoring as they really got on top of their opponents, and some excellent one-touch play involving Stephen Ramsey led to another opening for Foley, who was denied by a fine low save by Crook.
Blyth levelled 11 minutes before half-time when Morien’s sweet strike from outside the box found the net, and he completed the turnaround in the 45th minute when he dribbled across the field before hitting into the bottom corner.
Ramsey went close to levelling for Shields in first half stoppage time, but his header from a Wayne Phillips cross went just wide.
Shields’ performance had collapsed in the latter stages of the first half, but they came out for the second period with renewed vigour, with Julio Arca brought on for his 50th appearance for the club.
The Mariners had a penalty within three minutes of the restart when Carson was brought down in the box, but when the same player hit the spot-kick wide, it felt like it might be one of those nights.
Robinson went close to extending the Division Two side’s lead, but Shields got back on level terms in the 69th minute when Foley was found by a superb defence-splitting pass by Arca before finishing well past Crook.
It was soon three for Foley when Andrew Stephenson found him brilliantly before he beat Crook at his near post with a well-hit effort.
Wayne Phillips almost added to the scoring as he hit the crossbar with an audacious chip, and the rebound fell to Stephenson, who also hit the woodwork.
Foley and 17-year-old substitute Danny Barlow – brought on for his debut – saw efforts kept out by Crook before Foley did grab his fourth as he turned in from close range after a header forward by Ben Riding was not dealt with.
Barlow, Stephenson, Riding, Foley and Carson all almost made it five in the final few minutes, with Crook in excellent form to foil them, but Shields had done enough to make it into round three.
Liam Connell kept the advantage at two goals as he tipped wide a free-kick from Morien.
Shields will hope to secure a third consecutive win on Saturday, when Guisborough Town visit Mariners Park for a league match.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Danny Carson, Smith, Morse (Arca 46), Riding, David Carson, Stephenson (Bolam 88), Ramsey (c) (Barlow 73), Phillips, Foley. Subs not used: Parkin, Finnigan.
Goals: Foley (21, 69, 72, 82).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields are to host Blyth Town in the second round of the Northern League Cup.
The Mariners were given a bye in the first round, with Alnwick Town and Blyth battling it out for the right to travel to Mariners Park in round two.
Town, who were promoted to Northern League Division Two last season, won 3-0 at St James’ Park on Tuesday.
The tie at Mariners Park will take place on Tuesday, November 15.
South Shields have been handed a home tie against either Alnwick Town or Blyth Town in the second round of the Northern League Cup.
The Mariners have been handed a bye to the second round, and are now guaranteed to take on Northern League Division Two opposition at Mariners Park.
The date for the fixture has yet to be determined.
Should Alnwick prevail against Blyth in their first round tie, Shields will take on a side they picked up four points against in the league last season.
Alnwick twice fought back from a goal behind to snatch a 2-2 home draw last August, but the Mariners were in mean form when they met in the reverse fixture, winning 4-1 at Mariners Park in their last match before Christmas.
If Blyth are the first round victors, though, it will be an intriguing and new challenge for Shields.
Town won the Northern Alliance league for the third year in a row last season, and this time were in a position to gain promotion to Division Two of the Northern League. They are now preparing for life in their new league.