A clinical hat-trick from Jason Gilchrist steered South Shields back to winning ways as they got the better of Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
Gilchrist’s first treble for the club was an important one at Sir Tom Finney Stadium against a Brig side which had started the season with a win and a draw.
Shields knew the importance of maximum points after a 3-1 home reverse to Radcliffe four days earlier left them playing catch-up in the early Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
Two goals were traded inside the first 16 minutes, with Gilchrist finishing from close range early on before Matt Dudley equalised for the hosts.
Gilchrist netted again after outstanding work from Darius Osei 12 minutes before the break and completed his hat-trick on the hour mark to take his tally for the Mariners to 30 and move his side up to third in the league.
Phil Turnbull and Will Jenkins were introduced to the starting line-up by joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, but it was Brig who had the first effort of the game as Danny Forbes turned inside the area and had a shot blocked by Dillon Morse, who also got in the way of a follow-up strike from George Thomason.
It took Gilchrist just four minutes to make his mark on the game though as he banished his frustration from four days earlier against Radcliffe, when he hit the woodwork three times.
Darius Osei swung in a cross from the right flank which was headed across the area by Jon Shaw to his defensive partner Morse, whose effort was parried by home goalkeeper Danny Roccia. He could only push the ball back out into his six-yard box, though, where Gilchrist was on hand to convert from close range.
It did not take long for Bamber Bridge to draw level, with their equaliser arriving in the 16th minute.
Some neat interplay on the inside-left of the box concluded as Callum King-Harmes laid the ball off to Dudley and he stroked it into the bottom corner, leaving Myles Boney with no chance.
The hosts had similar joy down their left flank as they searched for a quickfire double, but as Thomason shaped to shoot from a similar position to the one Dudley scored from minutes earlier, Callum Ross charged him down to make the block and underline Shields’ determination not to suffer back-to-back defeats.
Turnbull was a reassuring presence in midfield for the Mariners as he made his first start of the season, albeit in a slightly unfamiliar role on the side of a diamond. He almost assisted a second Gilchrist goal as he lifted a ball down the left and, with Roccia charging well out of his box, the Shields striker hit an effort which struck the goalkeeper and spun towards goal via a bounce on the wet surface before it was scrambled clear.
Forbes tested the palms of Boney with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box but Shields regained their lead on 33 minutes thanks to a sublime link-up between Osei and Gilchrist.
A tremendous control and turn by Osei on the left saw play open up for him and when he fizzed a dangerous low cross into the six-yard box, Gilchrist got in front of his defender to flick the ball home with a deft finish.
There were two half-chances for Brig to equalise for a second time before half-time, but Boney was equal to Forbes’ strike and although he later had to scramble across his goal as King-Harmes curled in a dangerous cross, the ball was ultimately off-target.
Macaulay Wilson had the home side’s first effort of the second half but although his free-kick from 20 yards was low and awkward, Boney clung onto it at the second attempt. There was another heart-stopping moment for Shields as Matt Lawlor’s menacing cross from the right just evaded a meaningful touch.
Shields went close to extending their lead when Osei held the ball up well and played it to Briggs, whose effort with the outside of his right foot curled into the side netting.
On the hour mark, though, Gilchrist was very much on-target as he registered his and Shields’ third of the afternoon in ruthless fashion.
Alex Kempster, who performed admirably in an unfamiliar left-back role, motored down the left flank and his cross fell perfectly into the path of Gilchrist, who guided it into the corner of the net to ease any Mariners nerves.
Although Bamber Bridge saw a lot of the ball in the final half-hour, they were unable to test Boney as their visitors largely kept them at arm’s length.
Shields will now take a short break from league action when they travel to Southport in the FA Cup on Tuesday.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Kempster, Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Turnbull, Briggs, Gilchrist (McCamley 87), Jenkins (Verstraaten 56), Osei (Hodgson 78). Subs not used: Agnew, Croft.
Goals: Gilchrist (4, 33, 60).
Image: Kev Wilson.
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 battled back from a two-goal deficit to take a share of the spoils in a six-goal thriller against Ashton United in the Pitching In Northern Premier League on Tuesday.
On a pulsating night, Shields recovered from 2-0 and 3-1 behind in the second half to preserve their unbeaten start to the campaign.
The Mariners went into the game having not yet conceded a goal, but that all changed in the opening 45 minutes as in-form Ashton raced into a 2-0 lead.
Half-time substitute Jason Gilchrist prodded home to half the deficit but when the Robins restored their two-goal advantage from the penalty spot in controversial circumstances, Shields found themselves back at square one.
They retained the momentum they had built up prior to falling 3-1 behind, though, and got back on level terms thanks to a stunning free-kick from Robert Briggs and a second goal from Gilchrist before pressing for a winner to no avail in the closing stages.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton fielded a side which included three changes from the team which started Saturday’s goalless draw at Hyde United, with Wouter Verstraaten, Will Jenkins and Alex Kempster replacing Josh Gillies, Nathan Lowe and Gilchrist.
They started promisingly enough at Hurst Cross without creating any clear-cut opportunities, with Kempster providing their first effort at goal with a 25-yard free-kick which goalkeeper Christopher Cheetham held.
A strong three-minute spell midway through the first half saw Ashton establish a two-goal advantage.
Shields fell behind at the hands of a familiar face, with John Lufudu’s cross from the right met by Millenic Alli, who steered the ball home against his former club from the left of the area.
Alli demonstrated the kind of talent which earned him a move to the Mariners a little over a year ago in an impressive first half performance, and his side was celebrating a second goal on 28 minutes as John Pritchard’s menacing free-kick delivery from the right was headed in by Michael Raynes.
It was a double blow which stung Shields, but they almost hit back immediately as Blair Adams burst down the left and had a shot blocked, with Jenkins then denied in similar fashion.
Kempster proved to be the Mariners’ biggest threat throughout most of the game and he was the next to go close, bursting through the middle before forcing Cheetham into a low save.
Shields introduced Lowe and Gilchrist at the break as they looked for a response in the second period, but they were nearly dealt a hammer blow within moments of the restart as Ashton broke away down the right and a cross was delivered to Alli, who looked certain to score his second at the back post only to divert the ball wide.
That prompted a better response from the away side as they built up pressure on the Ashton goal.
Dillon Morse had a header saved from a Briggs corner, Kempster saw an effort blocked and Darius Osei nodded wide before Gilchrist went even closer, firing a low effort which was deflected into the side netting as Shields continued to knock at the door.
They found their breakthrough in the 57th minute after a fine bit of play, with Briggs beating the defence with a clipped pass from near the halfway line on the right and Gilchrist controlling it sumptuously before dinking it past Cheetham with his second touch to half the deficit.
The Mariners were dealt a blow when substitute Lowe was forced off with an injury soon after but that did not halt their momentum, with his replacement Craig Baxter having a shot blocked and Shields then going closer still as Gilchrist was found by Callum Ross before drawing a fine save from Cheetham.
With an equaliser appearing to be an increasingly likely prospect, Shields were hit by a sucker punch as Baxter was penalised after a challenge on an Ashton forward and the referee pointed to the spot, despite the visitors’ protestations that the incident had taken place outside the penalty area.
Joshua Wilson’s spot-kick was powerful and central as he restored the Robins’ two-goal lead.
Such had Shields’ dominance been to that point in the second half, they will have felt confident further chances would come their way, and so it proved.
Jordan Hunter slid a dangerous low ball across the area which was cut out just before Gilchrist could convert, and minutes later as Osei advanced through the middle he was scythed down on the edge of the box.
The free-kick was awarded in what can only be described as Robert Briggs territory, and the Shields vice-captain showed exactly why that description is so apt.
He lifted a glorious free-kick over the wall and in via a kiss of the underside of the bar to again half the home side’s advantage and set up an exciting finish.
It took less than two more minutes for the Mariners to pull back on level terms, with Briggs again at the heart of it.
His chipped ball from the right was punched by Cheetham and after a momentary spot of pinball was slotted into the net by Gilchrist, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for offside. After consulting with his fellow official, though, the referee ruled that the offside Osei had not been interfering with play and awarded Shields their equaliser – and with it an opportunity to press home their dominance in the final 12 minutes by scoring a winner.
Ashton retained an attacking threat of their own and on 80 minutes, almost reclaimed the lead as Alli raced through one-on-one with Myles Boney, who denied him with a fine save before making a brave follow-up block, taking the full force of the forward in the process. After lengthy treatment, the goalkeeper was able to continue.
Shields had a number of half-chances to go 4-3 ahead before Ashton survived an incredible goalmouth scramble as Briggs, Kempster and Osei were all denied what would surely have been a winner.
Briggs had a final opportunity to snatch it deep into added time with a free-kick in similar territory to his first, but this time opted to aim for the goalkeeper’s side of the goal and Cheetham stood firm to make the save.
The second half had proved to be a breathtaking affair and the two sides will do it all over again on Saturday in the Emirates FA Cup at Hurst Cross. Both management teams will surely be hoping for a little less drama.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Verstraaten (Lowe 46) (Baxter 59), Briggs, Osei, Jenkins (Gilchrist 46), Kempster. Subs not used: McCamley, Mason.
Goals: Gilchrist (57, 78), Briggs (76).