South Shields qualified for the first round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since the club reformed in 1974 on a stirring afternoon against FC Halifax Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
The National League side were put to the sword by a sharp Mariners outfit which clinched a 2-0 win thanks to a goal in each half.
Darius Osei headed them into the lead seven minutes before half-time and Robert Briggs’ impressive solo effort in the second half booked Shields a place in Monday’s draw alongside the likes of Sunderland, Hull City, Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth.
The historic victory was earned in front of a buoyant crowd of 300, perhaps less than 10% of the attendance which would have been expected had restrictions not been in place.
But those supporters who were inside the ground certainly made their presence felt as they roared their team on fervently and more than played their part on one of the most significant days in the club’s recent history.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton handed a debut to former Newcastle United defender Jamie Sterry and he slotted in seamlessly to a three-man defence which also included Dillon Morse and Blair Adams, while Osei was reintroduced to the starting line-up after coming on as a substitute in the midweek draw with Morpeth Town.
Shields started brightly and sensed some early joy as Osei linked up with Briggs and the midfielder looked set to pull the trigger on the edge of the box, only for an excellent tackle by Niall Maher to snuff out the opportunity.
Briggs – released into a more attacking role in this game – was a persistent threat to the Shaymen and almost fired his side into the lead 11 minutes in as Osei twisted and turned on the right before picking out Shields’ captain with a sublime cross to the back post, only for Maher again to prove his nemesis by blocking his volley on the goal-line.
There was another sight of goal for Briggs soon after as Osei again found him just outside the area after shrugging off his man, but this time the number eight’s left-foot strike was deflected by Nathan Clarke for a corner.
The Mariners thought they had scored the goal their enterprising play deserved midway through the first half when Osei drove through the middle and showed good composure to lay the ball off to Briggs, whose controlled cross was turned in by Jason Gilchrist from close range. The striker, though, had strayed beyond the final defender and so the assistant referee’s flag denied him the opener.
Undeterred by that blow, the Mariners continued to probe for a breakthrough and went desperately close to it again in the 32nd minute.
Adams played in Alex Kempster down the left and his cross was met by Gilchrist at the near post, only for Maher to again get in the way with a block which had more than a hint of handball about it. Briggs looked set to ram home the rebound but Danny Williams got there first and Halifax remained unbreached.
After scoreless and frustrating encounters with Matlock Town and Morpeth in their previous two outings, Shields must have been beginning to wonder whether this might be another one of those afternoons.
However, all such thoughts were banished in emphatic fashion seven minutes before the break.
Some fast-paced play saw Gilchrist released down the right and although his cross was over-hit, Kempster was able to retrieve it on the left flank and deliver a menacing ball which Osei met with a stunning header into the top corner as he deservedly notched his first goal at 1st Cloud Arena.
There was no let-up after that from the Mariners and they almost scored goal number two minutes later as Gilchrist’s cross from the right found Kempster at the back post and his sliding effort was sliced over his own bar by Neill Byrne, whose heart must have been in his mouth as the ball fizzed over the crossbar.
Halifax threatened an equaliser in the closing moments of the first half, with Maher drawing Myles Boney into a save with a strike from outside the box before the same player headed against the post from the resulting corner.
It was to be expected that Pete Wild’s side would produce a reaction in the second half and so it proved, particularly in the early stages of it.
They had a chance within a minute of the restart when a scooped ball into the box by Jeff King found Gold Omotayo and his half-volley went over the bar.
There was another opportunity as Kieran Green’s cross was powerfully headed wide by Williams while Boney kept out a long range effort from Martin Woods as Shields continued to weather the storm.
The hosts got through that difficult period and almost found their reward for it when Hunter’s low ball into the box was curled just wide by Osei but with 19 minutes left, Shields did get their nerve-settler.
So many players had come to the fore in this match for the Mariners but none more so than Briggs, who truly deserved his moment of magic which took his side within touching distance of the first round.
He showed real intelligence to beat his man on the right flank and then ghosted inside, beating a defender before picking out the bottom corner with a magnificently placed left-foot effort from the edge of the area.
Halifax were running out of time to force their way back into the tie and attempted to pressurise their hosts with a number of deliveries from wide areas, but Boney and his defence were equal to them as Shields comfortably saw out the final minutes to complete a historic victory.
They can now look forward to the first round draw ahead of Tuesday’s league fixture at home to FC United of Manchester.
South Shields: Boney, Sterry (Baxter 89), Adams, Ross, Morse, Turnbull, Hunter, Briggs (c), Gilchrist (Hindle 67), Osei (Verstraaten 90+2), Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew, Gillies, McCamley.
Goals: Osei (38), Briggs (71).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields qualified for the final qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup as Myles Boney took centre stage with two superb saves in a penalty shootout win at Southport.
The Mariners battled back from a goal behind against the National League North outfit, who had eliminated them from the Buildbase FA Trophy a year earlier.
Darius Osei slid in a 74th minute equaliser and Shields were the better side in the closing stages, but were unable to seal a victory in the 90 minutes as they were forced into a second penalty shootout of the season in this competition.
Just as he did in the second qualifying round at Warrington Town, Boney came to the fore with two brilliant stops to help his side prevail, with all four of Shields’ penalty takers converting from the spot.
The Mariners now await Thursday’s draw for the fourth qualifying round as they bid to claim a place in the first round for the first time in the modern club’s history.
Shields made one change to the side which won 3-1 at Bamber Bridge in the Pitching In Northern Premier League three days earlier, with fit-again Blair Adams introduced in place of Will Jenkins, releasing Alex Kempster into a more attacking role.
The Mariners started brightly enough in possession, but Southport’s danger from set-pieces was prevalent from an early stage as they attempted to bombard their visitors with an array of deliveries into the box.
The home side also had a series of efforts from outside the area, the first of which was a sweet strike by Connor Woods which Boney was equal to three minutes in.
Jack Sampson and David Morgan were off target with shots from a similar range before Shields almost stunned their hosts through the in-form Jason Gilchrist, who slammed an effort from just outside the area which left the crossbar rattling.
Boney was kept busy at the other end and his latest interventions saw him do well to keep out a 25 yard strike by Russell Benjamin before tipping a half volley from Morgan onto the bar.
Phil Turnbull and Kempster both denied Mo Ali with blocks but Southport’s pressure told just before the half-hour mark, albeit in hugely fortuitous circumstances.
Jack Bainbridge got in down the right of the area and as he fired a low cross into the box, it struck the standing leg of Callum Ross and fizzed past Boney to leave many inside the ground scratching their heads, as it had appeared from some angles that the ball had gone past the post.
Buoyed by their goal, Southport pushed for a second and Charlie Oliver sent a ball across the face of goal which begged a touch but did not get one, while Craig Baxter was the next to produce an impressive block from a set-piece.
Shields did have some promising openings of their own in the closing stages of the first half without being able to test home goalkeeper Tony McMillan, and there were enough signs of encouragement to reflect on at half-time as they looked to produce a second half turnaround.
That is exactly what transpired, and they were almost level within two minutes of the restart as Blair Adams’ menacing cross from the left deceived McMillan and flew towards the top corner before the goalkeeper scrambled across to make a fingertip save.
The Mariners were forced into a change moments later, with captain Jon Shaw withdrawn due to a knock and replaced by Jordan Hunter, prompting a change of shape as Lee Picton and Graham Fenton opted to go three at the back.
It was an alteration which worked a treat, with Hunter in particular thriving on the right-hand side as he posed a constant threat to the Southport back-line.
Shields began to dominate possession and Gilchrist, having been starved of chances barring the one he created for himself and struck the crossbar with, was brought into the centre of proceedings.
His first sniff of goal came as Kempster delivered a dangerous cross from the left and Gilchrist volleyed over what was a difficult opportunity at the back post.
Gilchrist also headed over from an Adams cross and had a better chance less than a minute later as Hunter’s cross was destined for his head at point-blank range, only for the slightest of touches by a defender to increase the pace on the ball, meaning it came at Gilchrist too quickly for him to react and it struck him before going over.
The pressure on Southport was building and it paid off with 16 minutes remaining as Gilchrist produced some fine skill on the left flank and found Kempster, who saw an effort blocked before sending the loose ball across the face of goal, where Osei was on hand to roll in his second of the season.
Kempster proved to be Shields’ biggest threat in the closing stages and he forced McMillan into a decent save with a strike from distance, while substitute Will McCamley also went close as he drove at the Sandgrounders’ defence from the left before having a shot deflected not far wide.
As the match went into stoppage time, Southport’s threat returned and they went close three times, with Morgan narrowly off target with two attempts from the edge of the area before Boney made a fine interception in the final minute after a loose backpass threatened to unravel all of Shields’ good work.
The tie would therefore be decided with the taking of penalty kicks, the same method the Mariners had prevailed from two rounds previously against Warrington Town.
They again went second on this occasion, with the first crucial moment arriving when the third spot-kick of the shootout, taken by Southport’s Benjamin, was superbly kept out by Boney as he dived low to his right.
Boney also brilliantly saved Southport’s second penalty, diving the correct way before saving from Oliver, giving Shields much the upper hand.
Robert Briggs, Gilchrist and Kempster were all successful from the spot and Boney’s saves meant Osei had an opportunity to fire Shields into the next round, which he duly took as he confidently stroked his penalty home.
The Mariners are now potentially one win away from qualifying for the competition proper, although first they must negotiate a league fixture at home to Matlock Town on Saturday, followed by another match at 1st Cloud Arena against Morpeth Town three days later.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Adams (McCamley 75), Shaw (c) (Hunter 50), Morse, Ross, Turnbull, Briggs, Gilchrist, Kempster, Osei. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew, Verstraaten, Jenkins, Hodgson.
Goal: Osei (74).
South Shields swept into the third qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup with a convincing 4-0 victory at Ashton United on Saturday.
Four days after they had to come from two goals behind to salvage a draw in a league fixture against the same opponents, Shields were on the front foot throughout at Hurst Cross.
Jason Gilchrist and Darius Osei fired them into a 2-0 lead at half-time, and second half goals from Robert Briggs and Callum Ross sealed the Mariners’ place in Monday’s draw for the next round.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made two changes to the team which started last Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at Ashton, with Craig Baxter and Gilchrist introduced to the starting line-up in place of Will Jenkins and Jordan Hunter, who was injured.
After a sluggish first half display had left Shields playing catch-up in the league encounter between the sides, there were no such issues this time.
They had a sight of goal as early as the third minute as captain Jon Shaw turned an Alex Kempster free-kick wide, while further opportunities came the way of Briggs and Gilchrist as they began to knock on the Ashton door.
Goalkeeper Greg Hartley pushed away Briggs’ 20 yard effort and Gilchrist’s strike whistled into the side netting, though, as the away side were made to wait for their breakthrough.
It arrived on 24 minutes as Dillon Morse picked out Gilchrist with a terrific pass over the top and the frontman advanced towards goal before rounding Hartley and rolling the ball home for his third goal against Ashton in four days.
Less than eight minutes later, the Mariners went two goals to the good.
This time it was Ross at the heart of the build-up. He superbly beat his man in the centre of the pitch, drove forward with the ball and played it to Osei, who rifled a shot which had too much on it for Hartley and skipped into the roof of the net.
The closest Ashton came to pulling a goal back in the first half was an effort from the edge of the box by Ben Hardcastle which took a deflection and zipped along the wet surface before being well held by Myles Boney.
Shields had opportunities to go three ahead in the early stages of the second half, but Briggs and Kempster were both off target with their shots and Gilchrist was denied by Hartley.
The hosts almost halved the deficit just before the hour as Sam Sheridan tried to catch Boney out from near the halfway line, but his strike touched the top of the crossbar before bouncing behind.
The Mariners seized control after that and after a Briggs cross from the left was narrowly headed his own bar by a defender, the Shields vice-captain went from provider to goalscorer.
The lively Kempster provided him with the opportunity after a strong run and cross from the left, and Briggs squeezed the ball home at the back post to all but seal his side’s passage into the next round.
Ashton’s John Pritchard was sent off 10 minutes from the end after kicking out at Shields substitute Jenkins, and six minutes later the scoring was completed.
Briggs was back in the role of provider this time as his deep corner from the left was powered home by the head of Ross at the back post as he registered his first goal for the Mariners.
It completed a fine afternoon’s work for Picton and Fenton’s side, who can now look forward to Monday’s draw for the third qualifying round.
They are back in action on Tuesday when they take on Radcliffe in the league at 1st Cloud Arena.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Baxter, Adams (McCamley 75), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Verstraaten, Briggs, Gilchrist (Hodgson 82), Osei (Jenkins 72), Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew.
Goals: Gilchrist (24), Osei (32), Briggs (69), Ross (86).
Image: Kev Wilson.