Darren Lough has signed for Northern League Division One outfit Hebburn Town on a permanent deal.
Lough joined South Shields in January 2017 after a lengthy spell playing in the Icelandic top flight.
He made 92 appearances during his time with the Mariners, scoring once, and was part of five trophy wins.
The club would like to wholeheartedly thank Darren for his efforts at Mariners Park and wish him all the very best for the future.
Joint manager Graham Fenton said: “After working with Darren for the last three seasons, it’s really sad to see him leave the club.
“We fully respect his decision to want to play more football and feel like he has deserved the opportunity to go to pastures new, because he has represented the club exceptionally well each and every time he has put the shirt on.
“It’s safe to say Darren is one of the most professional players we have ever worked with.
“He kept his standards exceptionally high last season despite not playing as often as he would have liked.
“Hebburn Town have got themselves someone who will be one of the best defenders in the Northern League.
“Darren will be fondly remembered for his huge contribution in the quadruple-winning season and for his magnificent performance at Wembley in the FA Vase final.
“We wish him all the best for his future in the game.”
South Shields avenged their early-season defeat to Colwyn Bay with a comfortable 4-1 victory over the Welsh side at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The Mariners were in control from the start against the Bay, and took the lead in the fourth minute when Gavin Cogdon finished off a flowing move.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men midway through the first half when goalkeeper Matt Cooper was given his marching orders for a foul on Cogdon, and from the resulting free-kick, Julio Arca curled a sumptuous effort past substitute Kris Leigh.
Darren Lough fired in his first goal for the club eight minutes before the break and, although Danny Andrews pulled one back for the Bay, Shields were never seriously troubled.
They completed the scoring in the 56th minute as Robert Briggs rattled home a penalty to leave the Mariners just once point short of securing promotion.
It’s a slightly complicated process, but a point would mean that, even if Shields were overhauled by Scarborough Athletic and Hyde United and finished third, they would be guaranteed to possess the best points per game ratio of any third-placed finisher at their level in the country.
The third-placed team with the best points per game ratio at this level will earn automatic promotion.
Up against a Colwyn Bay side which caused them many problems in an early-season 4-2 defeat, a difficult afternoon was expected at Mariners Park for Shields on Saturday.
But the Mariners got out of the blocks swiftly and took the lead in just the fourth minute.
Arca sprayed a glorious pass from the centre of the park to Lee Mason on the right, he beat his man and squared for Cogdon to bundle the ball home.
The Mariners continued to cause their opponents problems before a key moment came midway through the first half.
With Cogdon running through on goal, goalkeeper Cooper came charging out of his area and brought the striker down.
Perhaps harshly, he was shown a straight red card, and his replacement Leigh’s first action was to pick the ball out of his net after Arca curled a sumptuous free-kick into the corner of his goal.
Shields were rampant and almost had a third when Jon Shaw clipped a pass forward for Cogdon, who turned his defender and rattled an effort against the foot of the post.
Carl Finnigan was denied by a close-range save soon after and Jamie Holmes went close before the points were eventually wrapped up.
Lough drove inside from the left and played it to Cogdon, who flicked it back into the left-back’s path.
First time, he sent a bullet of a shot into the top corner as Lough registered his first goal for the Mariners – 15 months after joining.
The Welsh side regrouped, and pulled a goal back a minute before the break when an Andrews effort from distance took an awkward bounce and found the top corner.
There were chances at both ends at the start of the second half, with Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell doing well to keep out a free-kick from Josh Brizell before Finnigan was denied at the other end.
The Mariners’ fourth goal arrived when Finnigan was fouled in the area and Briggs made no mistake from the spot.
Shields mostly conserved energy in the closing stages, though Luke Sullivan, Shaw and Holmes all went close, while at the other end Connell saved well from Andrews.
The Mariners had moved three points closer to promotion. One more will do.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c) (Ross 68), Mason, Briggs (Richardson 57), Cogdon, Finnigan (Sullivan 57), Holmes. Subs not used: Woolston, Biwer.
Goals: Cogdon (4), Arca (24), Lough (37), Briggs (pen 56).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields and Newport Pagnell Town go head-to-head for a place in the semi-finals of the Buildbase FA Vase at a sold-out Mariners Park on Saturday.
A ground record crowd of more than 3,000 is expected for the quarter-final tie.
Both clubs are aiming to reach the last four of the competition for the first time in their history.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton has challenged his side to deal with such a big occasion.
He said: “We’re all aware of how many tickets have been sold and what kind of experience it’s going to be for everyone concerned.
“We’re going to have to deal with the occasion. To be honest, there have been a couple of similar occasions already this season where we’ve perhaps not done ourselves justice or been near the top of our game.
“Hopefully those experiences that we’ve had already this season in front of a packed Mariners Park will give us the confidence to put a better show on.
“Fingers crossed we can do that, because if we do, we’ve already proved that we’re more than a match for any side at this level.
“It’s about focusing on us, getting our levels right and being as good as we can be on Saturday.
“Our sole focus has just been about just coming up with a real solid gameplan, and identifying how we’re going to go about our business and execute that gameplan.”
Newport Pagnell are 11th in the United Counties League Premier Division, and reached this stage of the competition with a dramatic 3-2 win over Northern League outfit Sunderland RCA in the last round, after extra-time. They had been 2-0 down at half-time and did not score their equaliser until deep into second half stoppage time.
Julio Arca insists Shields just have to concentrate on themselves, though.
He said: “I think this is going to be one of South Shields’ biggest games for many years.
“The managers have been saying to us that we need to perform better than we did in the last two big games we had at Mariners Park, against Morpeth and North Shields.
“We didn’t play they way we know we can in those two matches.
“It will be incredible to have so much support behind us. It’s fantastic for the club and shows how much it has grown over the last 18 months.
“Everyone’s eyes are going to be on us on Saturday and that is something we should be relishing as players.
“I believe it’s in our hands. If we perform the way we know we can, I think our quality will shine.
“We need to do the basics right, play the football we like to play and work hard.”
Shields defender Darren Lough is expecting an “incredible” atmosphere at Mariners Park.
He said: “We’ve had a big week of preparation and two training sessions to get us ready.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to put on a big performance in front of a big crowd.
“The atmosphere is going to be incredible and I just hope we can put in a performance to go into the next round.
“It’s a cup game and anything can happen on the day.
“They’re coming up here and know what we’re going to be like.
“It will come down to us and how we perform. If we play well, I’m confident we’ll win the game.”
Shields will be without injured trio Leepaul Scroggins, Barrie Smith and Stephen Ramsey, while Anthony Callaghan is cup-tied and Iulian Petrache is suspended.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm.