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).
Nathan Lowe’s thunderbolt inside the first two minutes set South Shields on their way to a season-opening win over Mickleover on an uplifting afternoon at 1st Cloud Arena.
Lowe’s strike into the top corner was an emphatic way for Shields to return to competitive action before second half goals from Jon Shaw and Jason Gilchrist completed what proved to be a convincing victory.
Mickleover played their part in an at times feisty game but it was the Mariners who were smiling at the final whistle as they climbed to the top of an admittedly primitive Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
It may have been Shields’ first competitive game in more than six months but there was little evidence of rustiness in the opening stages.
Darius Osei fed Gilchrist down the right and when he looked inside for options, Lowe was screaming for the ball 25 yards from goal. Gilchrist duly played it into his path and his good friend leathered it into the top corner to kick-off the season in style.
The home side’s bright start continued and it was Gilchrist who remained chief creator, with his cross from the left sent narrowly wide by a looping header from Osei.
Osei went closer still to doubling Shields’ advantage before quarter of an hour had even been played as he drifted in from the right before belting a left-foot shot narrowly over the crossbar.
It took Mickleover some time to settle into the game but when they did, they demonstrated their ability to provide a real threat to the Shields back-line.
They almost equalised on the half-hour mark when Declan Bacon’s low ball into the box was half-cleared as far as Andrew Wright, whose well-struck effort hit the base of the post.
If that was a warning for the Mariners, they were fired another one soon after as Wright fizzed in a dangerous cross from the right but no team-mate was on hand to convert.
Mickleover’s strong end to the first half saw them continue to threaten a leveller and they created another decent chance when Alex Morris whipped in a cross which found the head of the experienced Stuart Beavon, but he was unable to trouble Myles Boney.
Shields came out strongly at the start of the second half and Josh Gillies forced visiting goalkeeper Callum Hawkins into action early on as his low strike from distance was beaten away.
Lowe almost doubled his tally for the afternoon in spectacular fashion with a powerful free-kick from the left of the box which just cleared the crossbar, although many in attendance had mistakenly thought the ball had looped in.
The match entered a scrappy period as both sides picked up a number of yellow cards, but Shields broke the resistance of the away side on 68 minutes as substitute Robert Briggs’ superb free-kick delivery from the left was met at the back post by Shaw, who guided it past Hawkins with a brilliant header.
The Mariners were well on their way to an opening-day victory but had to remain alert at the back and were fired another warning of Mickleover’s threat when Anam Verma played in substitute Jordan Walshaw and his powerful strike forced Boney into an impressive one-handed save.
The visitors were left scratching their heads as to how they had not pulled a goal back two minutes before the end when Ben Garing headed against the post before Dillon Morse denied Beavon with an acrobatic goal-line clearance and Boney brilliantly blocked from Patrick Webb as the clean sheet was preserved.
The final word ultimately belonged to Shields, who added a third goal in stoppage time.
Jordan Hunter beat Alex Morris on the right and he found Gilchrist, who tucked in his first goal of the season from close range after some typically impressive movement from the striker had left him in space.
It was a pleasing return to competitive football for Shields, who travel to Warrington Town on Tuesday as they get their Emirates FA Cup campaign underway.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Brown 75), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Gillies (Briggs 63), Baxter, Gilchrist, Lowe, Osei (Jenkins 77). Subs not used: Turnbull, Verstraaten.
Goals: Lowe (2), Shaw (68), Gilchrist (90+3).
IMAGE: Kev Wilson.