First half goals from Carl Finnigan and Dillon Morse guided South Shields into the third qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy as they defeated a spirited Hyde United side 2-1 at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The result was a fifth consecutive victory for the upwardly mobile Mariners, who were deserving of their win.
They had been pegged back in the first half by a Hyde equaliser, but wrestled back control before half-time and saw the game out well in the closing stages.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton were dealt a blow on the eve of the game as David Foley was ruled out with a knock picked up in training.
Finnigan – returning from a two-match suspension – took Foley’s place in the starting line-up and led a fine opening to the game from the Mariners.
They dominated possession and probed for the breakthrough before Finnigan provided it in style on 12 minutes.
He jinked his way past two defenders outside the area before bringing the ball forward and slamming it into the bottom corner for his 11th goal of the season.
Hyde gradually became more effective and they threatened an equaliser with a clever corner routine which led to a shot from an unmarked Tom Pratt being deflected wide.
Shields looked the more potent outfit, though, and almost doubled their lead when a sublime flick by Finnigan on the right provided Craig Baxter with an opportunity to score his second goal in as many weeks, but goalkeeper Peter Crook kept out his low effort.
Hyde countered and almost shocked their hosts with an equaliser when a drive from Pratt was brilliantly tipped over by Liam Connell in the Shields goal.
The Mariners’ reprieve was short-lived as a Janni Lipka corner dropped into the six-yard box before being bundled in by Jordan Fagbola.
Hyde continued to be competitive as they showcased some of the play which helped them beat Shields 4-1 in the league the previous month.
Shields stuck to their task and produced some football which was extremely pleasing on the eye, notably when a fine move led to a cross by Blair Adams which Josh Gillies hit wide.
At the other end, Connell closed the angle well to deny Jerome Wright on the left of the box.
The Mariners were soon to reclaim their lead, though.
Finnigan played a free-kick short to Gillies 35 yards from goal and he whipped in a tremendous cross from the left which Morse guided in with his head at the back post.
Nathan Lowe had two half-opportunities to double Shields’ lead, but both efforts went wide of the post.
The Mariners pressed on in the second half and Lee Mason – who held the ball up superbly throughout the game – thrashed a shot which swerved not far wide within two minutes of the restart.
Lowe also saw an effort from range parried by Crook, but Shields’ bright start to the second half was almost thwarted in the 52nd minute.
Wright got to a loose ball first and sent a low shot towards goal which Adams scrambled to clear off the line, before captain Jon Shaw cleared another effort from Wright which was destined to drop in.
Connell saved smartly from Pratt later in the half as Hyde continued to pose a threat, while Connor Simpson fired wide from long range.
The closest Shields came to extending their advantage was 16 minutes from the end when Crook’s clearance fell to Finnigan 25 yards from goal and his attempted chip just failed to beat the goalkeeper.
Shields breathed a sigh of relief in the 87th minute as Pratt skewed a presentable opportunity wide, and that was to prove the final sighter of goal for the visitors.
The Mariners can now look forward to Monday’s third qualifying round draw.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Gillies (Harmison 64), Briggs, Finnigan, Lowe (Mouanda 77), Mason (Cogdon 86). Subs not used: Brown, Lough.
Goals: Finnigan (12), Morse (31).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields are bidding to keep their dream of a return trip to Wembley alive on Saturday when they host Hyde United in the Buildbase FA Trophy.
The Mariners go into the match in good form, having won each of their last four games in all competitions without conceding.
The last time they failed to win was in a league trip to Hyde last month, when they fell to a 4-1 defeat.
Joint manager Graham Fenton says his side are determined to put that right at Mariners Park as they bid for a place in the third qualifying round.
Shields were defeated at this stage of the competition at Stafford Rangers last season.
Fenton said: “It’s no secret that we want to have a decent run in the FA Trophy this season.
“We felt a bit let down last year with the performance at Stafford when we went out quite early in the competition.
“We don’t want to do that again.
“Hyde beat us earlier this season at their place which gives us extra motivation, but the main motivation for us is that we want a really strong run in the Trophy this season.”
The Mariners will be boosted by the return of Carl Finnigan, who received a two-match suspension after being sent off in the league loss at Hyde.
Shields will be confident on the back of their four consecutive victories, and thanks to their superb home form this season.
They won 1-0 at Whitby Town last time out to end a run of four defeats in a row on the road.
Fenton was delighted with the character shown by his team at the Turnbull Ground.
He added: “It was such an important win for us.
“A lot has been made of our away form, but last Saturday was so pleasing.
“We were against a good team in horrible conditions, and managed to show we can dig in for a full 90 minutes.
“The two away wins we had before that this season were slightly different victories, and in this one we had to be patient.
“It was so pleasing to show that side of our game.
“We’ve shown time and time again at Mariners Park when the weather is nice and on a perfect pitch we can really play football.
“That is the side of the game we need to show ourselves and everyone else we can do really well in.”
Gavin Cogdon has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury, but it is not clear at this stage if he will be risked tomorrow.
Shields remain without long-term injured duo Barrie Smith and Anthony Callaghan going into the 3pm kick-off.
Admission prices – which can be paid at the turnstiles – are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.
Strike pair Carl Finnigan and Gavin Cogdon could be in line for a return to action when South Shields host Hyde United in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday.
Finnigan is available again having served a two-match suspension following a sending off in the league trip to Hyde last month.
Cogdon, meanwhile, is back in contention after missing the last seven matches with a hamstring injury he sustained in the Emirates FA Cup loss to Stockport County in September.
Finnigan is back after serving his second suspension of the season.
He is raring to go ahead of Hyde’s visit on Saturday.
The striker said: “I’m absolutely gutted to have had two red cards this season.
“It’s the first time it has happened to me in 15 years, and I’m devastated about it.
“Unfortunately, the way I play means there’s always going to be a chance, because I work so hard and play near to the edge as I’m trying my best to win games.
“I need to manage it a bit better without changing the way I play.
“I’m so passionate and desperate to win every game so much that sometimes I can get caught up in the moment.
“Maybe I just need to enjoy it a bit more and not concentrate everything on wanting to win so much.”
Finnigan is also feeling fitter than ever.
He added: “I want to play every game so it’s no good being sent off.
“Physically I feel fantastic.
“I’m 32 going on 23, or at least that’s the way I feel.
“I’ve looked after my body and I’m still passionate about fitness, which I’m benefiting from now.”
Read a full interview with Carl Finnigan in Saturday’s match programme.