South Shields eased into the second round of the Durham Challenge Cup with a comfortable 4-0 win at Norton and Stockton Ancients on Wednesday.
The Mariners were always in control, and once Dillon Morse had put them in front a minute before half-time, a seventh consecutive victory did not appear to be in any real doubt.
Morse doubled his tally early in the second half, while fellow defender Ben Riding was also on the scoresheet, as was David Carson.
Shields went into the game without the likes of Julio Arca, Leepaul Scroggins, Joss Carmichael and Gavin Cogdon, and initially struggled to break down a resolute Norton defence.
The Northern League Division Two outfit were determined to frustrate their visitors, but gradually Shields began to get a tight grip of proceedings.
After a number of half chances came and went, Carson had a shot deflected narrowly over, and Jon Shaw – moved up-front from defence for the first time in over a month – curled one not far wide.
Danny Carson had an effort cleared off the line before the breakthrough arrived a minute before the break.
A Danny Carson corner from the right was flicked on by Riding, and there at the back post to finish it off was Morse as he swept in to claim his first goal for the club.
A second arrived for the defender just seven minutes into the second half, with Riding’s flick-on spilled by the keeper to the feet of Morse, who made no mistake.
The Mariners’ passing was much improved in the second 45 minutes as they toyed with their opponents at times.
And they were rewarded with a third goal in the 64th minute after a patient move consisting of 24 passes which eventually saw the ball eventually threaded through to David Carson, who drilled past the goalkeeper.
With 16 minutes remaining, Shields brought on Ryan Bolam and Lewis Strafford, both of whom had been promoted from the reserves for the game.
Both impressed, and the Mariners scored within seconds of their introduction as Riding headed in a Danny Carson free-kick.
With 11 minutes left, Robert Briggs played an excellent ball through for Bolam, who had made a fine run, and he dribbled into an excellent position before squaring to Carl Finnigan, who was denied by a fine save.
Riding and Finnigan went close with further attempts, while the hosts crashed a penalty against the crossbar and were thwarted in the closing stages by goalkeeper Liam Connell.
In stoppage time, Strafford made an excellent tackle to preserve the clean sheet, just as Norton looked likely to get on the scoresheet.
The Mariners remain in four competitions this season, and turn their attentions back to the league on Saturday as they travel to Bishop Auckland.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Smith, Callaghan, Danny Carson, Morse (Strafford 74), Riding, Stephenson (Bolam 74), Briggs, Shaw (c) (Ramsey 65), David Carson, Finnigan. Subs not used: Parkin, Phillips.
Goals: Morse (44, 52), David Carson (64), Riding (75).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields’ attentions turn to the Durham Challenge Cup on Wednesday as they travel to Norton and Stockton Ancients.
The Mariners reached the semi-final of the competition last season, before being knocked out by eventual winners Newton Aycliffe on penalties at Mariners Park.
They go into their opening match in this season’s Challenge Cup looking for a seventh consecutive victory in all competitions.
Norton are 10th in Northern League Division Two, having been relegated last term.
After the jubilation of Saturday’s 2-1 FA Vase victory over Runcorn Linnets at Mariners Park, Shields joint manager Graham Fenton insists motivation will not be an issue on Wednesday – as the Mariners are aiming to fire in all competitions.
He has hinted there may be some changes to the starting line-up for the 7.30pm kick-off.
He said: “Every competition is important for us.
“With this squad, if we make changes, we know it doesn’t weaken the side.
“We’ll be making changes again, because there were a few tired legs at the end on Saturday.
“That will give other players a chance to come in and stake their claim for a spot in the next game.
“Competition for places is really hotting up.”
Goalkeeper Liam Connell, too, is eager for Shields to maintain their fine form in Wednesday’s game.
Connell was instrumental in the Mariners’ dramatic Vase win on Saturday, making an incredible save in the 97th minute which saw them avoid extra-time, and a possible replay.
He said: “Every cup and every game is important.
“We need to dig deep and grind the results out, because they’re coming thick and fast.
“We’ll probably be better off when we go to one game a week, which will give us the chance to get all the lads fit and ready.
“We’ve got an excellent squad and it’s great to be involved in such a talented group like this.”
Shields are set to be without striker Gavin Cogdon, who suffered a groin strain against Runcorn Linnets and is expected to be out for at least four weeks.
Kick-off at Norton Sports Complex, which has a post code of TS20 1PE, is at 7.30pm.
South Shields face a trip to Norton and Stockton Ancients in the first round of the Durham Challenge Cup.
The tie will see the Mariners come up against a side which was relegated from Northern League Division One last season.
It is due to be played on the week preceding Saturday, October 29.
Last season, Shields reached the semi-final of the competition, when they were knocked out on penalties by eventual winners Newton Aycliffe.