After an enforced month-long break due to lockdown, South Shields are ready to return to action as they face Ashton United in the first round proper of the Buildbase FA Trophy on Tuesday.
This will be the third time in three different competitions this season that Shields have played against Ashton.
The Mariners have played one game so far in the Trophy, with Robert Briggs scoring the only goal of the game to beat Colne at home in the third round of qualifying.
Cup fever also gripped South Shields as the first part of this season saw the club make history as they reached the first round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since reforming in 1974.
Despite eventually being knocked out by Cheltenham last month, the team put in some brilliant performances to get there, including a tense penalty shootout victory against Southport, when Myles Boney made two excellent saves to take his side into the next stage of the competition.
Arguably their finest hour in the competition came against FC Halifax Town in the fourth qualifying round. Although Halifax are two leagues above Shields, the Mariners put in a fantastic shift, and goals from Darius Osei and Briggs knocked the Shaymen out of the Cup.
Elsewhere, Shields are currently sixth in the Pitching In Northern Premier Division table with 15 points, just four off Mickleover, who are sat at the top.
After a mixed start to the season in the league, Shields were beginning to find their rhythm just before the country was placed into a national lockdown.
The opening game of the campaign saw a 3-0 win against the current league leaders, with goals from Nathan Lowe, Jon Shaw and Jason Gilchrist.
However, Shields encountered some tough games afterwards, drawing 0-0 with Hyde United and 3-3 with Ashton before losing 3-1 to Radcliffe.
The Mariners began to change course, and a Gilchrist hat-trick against Bamber Bridge saw them begin to steady the ship. Since then they have won two, drawn one and lost one.
As the season restarts, the team will be looking to continue their consistent approach. Their last two games saw 1-0 wins against FC United of Manchester and Gainsborough Trinity, with goals from Josh Gillies and Briggs respectively.
The Mariners will have to wait until after December 19th to return to league action, though, with the league campaign remaining paused as a result of current restrictions.
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.
South Shields complete their double-header with Ashton United on Saturday when they travel to Hurst Cross in the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The two sides played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in the Pitching In Northern Premier League on Tuesday, with Jason Gilchrist notching twice and Robert Briggs curling in a sublime free-kick as Shields came from two goals behind to earn a share of the spoils.
They will be hoping for considerably less drama on Saturday and will be looking for an improved first half display in particular.
Joint manager Lee Picton said: “We’re always left with a high level of frustration when we look across our group and see how much quality there is and we don’t evidence that in our performances.
“In every department in the first half on Tuesday we were so lacking, and it really hurt Graham (Fenton) and I.
“We obviously demanded more in the second half and that’s what we got.
“Credit to the lads for turning the situation around, which is not the easiest thing to do part way through a game.
“It was pretty much one-way traffic throughout the second half.
“We go back there on Saturday and will hopefully give a better account of ourselves from the off.”
Shields could go into Saturday’s tie without Nathan Lowe, who suffered a knee injury within moments of being introduced as a half-time substitute on Tuesday.
They will be hoping to progress into the third qualifying round, having made it to this stage with a win on penalties over Warrington Town a week-and-a-half ago.
Picton added: “We’re looking for evidence that we can learn lessons and that certain things will not be allowed to happen to us.
“We have to show we won’t allow certain standards to happen on the pitch.
“If we get many more first half performances like the one in midweek we’re going to be in trouble.
“The first half on Tuesday was a real low for us but hats off to the lads for getting something out of the game and now we need to show an improved performance across the 90 minutes on Saturday.”
Kick-off at Hurst Cross is at 3pm and a live stream of the match is available from Ashton for £6 by clicking here.