South Shields qualified for the final of the Durham Challenge Cup for the second time in three seasons with a 3-1 win at Northern League leaders Dunston UTS on Tuesday.
The Mariners established control from the outset and took a two-goal lead with strikes from Nathan Lowe and Robert Briggs.
Jake Stafford pulled one back for the hosts on the stroke of half-time and Dunston performed better in the second half, but a penalty from Robert Briggs late on sealed Shields’ passage into the final.
They will meet Shildon in the final after their 2-0 victory at Hartlepool United.
Shields were backed by a large and vociferous support at Dunston, and enjoyed a fine opening to the game.
It was Dunston who went closest early on, though, when Liam Connell was forced into a decent save after Michael Pearson was played in.
Lowe saw plenty of possession in the early stages and was rewarded for his bright start when he belted the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Dunston had two chances to pull level soon after, but a Pearson volley was deflected just over and Connell comfortably kept out an Andrew Grant-Soulsby header.
The Mariners were impressive going forward and almost made it two when Ben Harmison laid the ball off for Luke Daly and he smacked an effort against the post.
Shields scored their second just before half-time when Harmison chased what seemed a lost cause, cleanly won the ball and played it to Foley, who hammered it home from the edge of the box.
Foley almost made it a quickfire double when he was played in after some fine one-touch football, but he was denied by an incredible last-ditch block.
He had a further shot deflected into the side netting before Dunston pulled a goal back on 45 minutes when Stafford had an effort saved before turning in the rebound.
The Mariners were less impressive at the start of the second half and would have conceded an equaliser had Daly not cleared a Pearson header off the line.
Connor Bell turned in a superb performance on his first start for Shields but was kept off the scoresheet, with his best chance seeing him fire narrowly over.
Harmison and Darren Lough both went close to restoring the Mariners’ two-goal lead before Briggs was presented with a golden opportunity to do just that after Foley was fouled in the area.
Briggs buried his spot-kick into the corner of the net to end any lingering doubts about Shields’ victory.
They will be looking for another win on Saturday when they host Buxton in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Mouanda, Adams, Lowe (Turnbull 76), Morse (Bexton 54), Lough, Foley (Mason 86), Briggs (c), Harmison, Daly, Bell. Subs not used: Baxter, Guy.
Goals: Lowe (8), Foley (29), Briggs (pen 83).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields have been warned they face a tough battle as they bid to claim a place in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday.
The Mariners are away to Northern League leaders Dunston UTS in the semi-final of the competition, which they last won in 2017.
Chris Swailes’ Dunston have enjoyed a tremendous season and are heavy favourites to win promotion from the Northern League, where they hold a seven-point lead at the top with a game in hand.
Shields may operate in a league two levels above Dunston, but joint manager Graham Fenton knows just how difficult a night his team is in for.
He said: “It’s a semi-final and we want to win.
“I know Swaz (Chris Swailes) will want to win the game as well and it will be a tough one.
“We went to watch their game against Gateshead in the quarter-final, and they’re top of the Northern League for a reason.
“By no means are we going to turn up thinking it’s a foregone conclusion.
“It will be a tough game.
“We have to pick a team that’s fresh, first and foremost, so we have real energy throughout the team and a team that can hurt them as well as defend our own goal, because it will be a really tough battle.”
Shields returned to winning ways in the league on Saturday with a 2-0 success at Bamber Bridge.
They are expected to make some changes for Tuesday’s game, but Fenton will be looking for a similar sort of performance.
He added: “It was a brilliant away performance.
“We asked the lads for a balanced performance in terms of knowing when to throw a few bodies forward and when to defend, and we generally got it right.
“It was a really pleasing away performance, especially considering Bamber are good at home.
“We were disappointed to drop two points against them a fortnight earlier when we let a 3-1 lead slip.
“We were 2-0 up at half-time on Saturday and said that we were in the same situation and couldn’t let that happen again.
“To a man including the subs, everyone was brilliant in terms of sticking at it and making sure they didn’t get any clear-cut chances.
“It was a really pleasing day.”
Shields could welcome back left-back Anthony Callaghan, who has missed 14 months of football with a back injury.
They are expected to still be without Gary Brown, while Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan continue to miss out with their long-term knocks.
Kick-off at the UTS Stadium – which has a post code of NE11 9JL – is at 7.30pm.
A trip to Northern League Division One leaders Dunston UTS awaits South Shields in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
The tie will be played on Tuesday, February 26 at the UTS Stadium, with kick-off at 7.30pm.
It promises to be a stern test for the Mariners against a Dunston side which defeated Gateshead 2-1 in the quarter-final of the competition on Wednesday.
The two clubs have not met since a 3-1 Northern League win for Shields at Mariners Park in November 2016.
The Mariners’ last trip to Dunston saw them emerge 4-2 winners a month earlier.
Dunston have enjoyed a tremendous season so far, having reached the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup, when they were beaten by Gateshead.
In the league, they currently hold a one-point lead over Bishop Auckland and Consett, and have two games in hand.