Stockport County came from behind to end South Shields’ involvement in this season’s Emirates FA Cup on Saturday.
The Mariners were on course to beat the National League North side when Carl Finnigan gave them the lead just after the half-hour mark.
But Stockport took the ascendancy as the game went on, equalising before half-time and creating a number of chances in the second half.
They got their reward in stoppage time when substitute Nyal Bell hooked in the winner from a left-wing free-kick.
Shields suffered a blow in the lead-up to the game when in-form forward Josh Gillies was ruled out with an ankle injury picked up in training.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton opted to bring in Darren Lough, who slotted in at left-back while Blair Adams was moved to the right side of midfield.
Although the Mariners were not at their free-flowing best in the first half, they did produce some excellent moments and deserved the lead Finnigan gave them.
They had been patient in the early stages, with Finnigan and Gavin Cogdon leading from the front.
Finnigan repeatedly pressed his opponents into mistakes, one of which came when he charged down a clearance from Stockport goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe.
The ball bounced to safety but Cogdon eventually took control of it before dragging a shot wide from 20 yards.
In a similar passage of play, Finnigan won the ball high up the pitch soon after before beating his defender with good strength and having an effort deflected over.
That offered great encouragement for a vocal home support, with Liam Connell untroubled by a handful of attempts at the other end.
Shields maintained overall control and opened the scoring in the 31st minute.
Robert Briggs curled in a corner from the left which was taken from the head of Dillon Morse by a defender. Phil Turnbull chased the loose ball and kept it in play and Shields probed before Cogdon intelligently played in Adams on the inside-right of the box and he drilled it across the face of goal for Finnigan to tap home. It was a well-worked goal to give Shields the lead they deserved.
Soon after, though, the hosts were dealt a major blow when Cogdon – who had enjoyed an excellent start to the game – suffered a hamstring injury.
His replacement, Ursene Mouanda, produced a fine performance which was enough to earn him the man of the match award from sponsors Aztec Colour Print, but Shields undoubtedly missed Cogdon.
Immediately after he was withdrawn, Stockport equalised as a corner from the left by Adam Thomas bounced in the Shields area and, as time appeared to stand still, Sam Walker flicked it beyond a sea of bodies and into the net.
The Mariners were stung but avoided a double concession when an effort from 20 yards by Connor Dimaio cleared the crossbar.
Finnigan had two decent chances as the first half drew to a close, but on both occasions Hinchliffe closed the angle well and snuffed out the opportunity.
Shields were positive at the start of the second half and quickly had an opening when Craig Baxter’s cross from the right found David Foley at the back post, but Hinchliffe was again quickly out before pushing Foley’s shot to safety.
Jon Shaw later headed wide from a Briggs corner, but Stockport started to gain control after the hour mark and succeeded in pushing the home side back.
Darren Stephenson was one of their main threats, and he forced Connell into a decent low save before hitting another shot wide from 10 yards.
The pressure started to build but Connell would not be beaten. Frank Mulhern was played in on the inside-right of the box, but Connell beat his effort out for a corner. Baxter produced a fine interception just as Ash Palmer seemed set to score soon after, while substitute Elliott Osbourne closed down a Connell clearance and Shields were fortunate to see the ball bounce wide.
Connell also palmed a further effort from Osbourne to safety, but the best chance of the lot fell the way of substitute Nyal Bell after a corner fell to his feet 10 yards out. Shields breathed a sigh of relief when he blazed his volley over.
The Mariners appeared to have made it through their rocky spell and had some attempts of their own, albeit from distance.
An audacious 45-yard effort from Foley went wide while Mouanda hit one from distance which Hinchliffe comfortably stopped.
The decisive moment came just as the tie appeared to be heading for a replay when Stockport were awarded a free-kick on the left flank a minute into stoppage time.
Walker curled it in and Bell hooked the ball powerfully past Connell to bring Shields’ involvement in the Emirates FA Cup to an end at the second qualifying round stage.
The Mariners must now concentrate on the league as they prepare for next Saturday’s trip to Warrington Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Mason 52), Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Adams, Briggs (Wright 74), Cogdon (Mouanda 36), Finnigan, Foley. Subs not used: Lister, Brown, Hunter.
Goal: Finnigan (31).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
Tickets for the Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round tie between South Shields and Garforth Town will go on sale on Friday.
The match is taking place on Saturday, September 8 at Mariners Park, and will kick-off at 3pm.
Supporters will be able to buy tickets online from 1pm on Friday, with in-person sales at Mariners Park to take place between 1pm and 5pm.
Those with seated season tickets will have until 5pm on Tuesday to secure their seat for the match.
They will be able to visit Mariners Park between 1pm and 5pm on Friday, Monday or Tuesday to do so.
After that time, those seats not secured will go on general sale.
NO ticket sales will take place in-person on Saturday or Sunday, although supporters will still be able to buy tickets online.
Those who purchase tickets in advance of this game will receive priority ticketing for any future home tie in this season’s FA Cup, should the Mariners progress.
In-person ticket sales will take place between 1pm and 5pm on weekdays at Mariners Park, but tickets will be available to buy online 24 hours a day.
Admission prices for this game are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s. Seats are available at £12, £10 and £5 respectively.
Joint manager Graham Fenton says South Shields will be giving Garforth Town plenty of respect when the two sides meet in the Emirates FA Cup.
The draw for the first qualifying round of the competition was made on Tuesday, with the tie between Shields and Garforth to take place at Mariners Park on Saturday, September 8.
Garforth play in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, and are 15th in the table having picked up four points from four games.
Fenton said: “We’re delighted to have been given a home draw and are looking forward to welcoming Garforth Town to Mariners Park.
“I’m sure it will be a closely-fought FA Cup tie.
“We understand that we’ll probably go into it as favourites, but we certainly won’t be taking anything for granted.
“We will give Garforth every respect due and will be trying our best to come out with a positive result.”
Shields reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup last season, defeating Bridlington Town, Witton Albion, Darlington and York City before losing narrowly to Hartlepool United at Mariners Park.
Fenton wants Shields to go on a similar run this year.
He added: “The FA Cup is a massive competition for any club to be involved in.
“As everybody knows, the league is our main focus, but we know the positivity a strong cup run – particularly in the FA Cup – can bring, and the way it can affect a club.
“It can also generate quite a bit of revenue for the club, so it’s very important.
“Last season we got all the way to the fourth qualifying round and gained quite a bit of media exposure too, which would be great to have again.
“We want to go on a similar, if not better, run than the one last season.
“This is the first step and we will have to take the game very seriously.”
Garforth are competing in the first qualifying round for the first time since 2012.
They got the better of Bridlington – one of Shields’ opponents in last season’s FA Cup run – 2-1 on Saturday thanks to a last minute goal from Albert Ibrahimi.