South Shields qualified for the first round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since the club reformed in 1974 on a stirring afternoon against FC Halifax Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
The National League side were put to the sword by a sharp Mariners outfit which clinched a 2-0 win thanks to a goal in each half.
Darius Osei headed them into the lead seven minutes before half-time and Robert Briggs’ impressive solo effort in the second half booked Shields a place in Monday’s draw alongside the likes of Sunderland, Hull City, Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth.
The historic victory was earned in front of a buoyant crowd of 300, perhaps less than 10% of the attendance which would have been expected had restrictions not been in place.
But those supporters who were inside the ground certainly made their presence felt as they roared their team on fervently and more than played their part on one of the most significant days in the club’s recent history.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton handed a debut to former Newcastle United defender Jamie Sterry and he slotted in seamlessly to a three-man defence which also included Dillon Morse and Blair Adams, while Osei was reintroduced to the starting line-up after coming on as a substitute in the midweek draw with Morpeth Town.
Shields started brightly and sensed some early joy as Osei linked up with Briggs and the midfielder looked set to pull the trigger on the edge of the box, only for an excellent tackle by Niall Maher to snuff out the opportunity.
Briggs – released into a more attacking role in this game – was a persistent threat to the Shaymen and almost fired his side into the lead 11 minutes in as Osei twisted and turned on the right before picking out Shields’ captain with a sublime cross to the back post, only for Maher again to prove his nemesis by blocking his volley on the goal-line.
There was another sight of goal for Briggs soon after as Osei again found him just outside the area after shrugging off his man, but this time the number eight’s left-foot strike was deflected by Nathan Clarke for a corner.
The Mariners thought they had scored the goal their enterprising play deserved midway through the first half when Osei drove through the middle and showed good composure to lay the ball off to Briggs, whose controlled cross was turned in by Jason Gilchrist from close range. The striker, though, had strayed beyond the final defender and so the assistant referee’s flag denied him the opener.
Undeterred by that blow, the Mariners continued to probe for a breakthrough and went desperately close to it again in the 32nd minute.
Adams played in Alex Kempster down the left and his cross was met by Gilchrist at the near post, only for Maher to again get in the way with a block which had more than a hint of handball about it. Briggs looked set to ram home the rebound but Danny Williams got there first and Halifax remained unbreached.
After scoreless and frustrating encounters with Matlock Town and Morpeth in their previous two outings, Shields must have been beginning to wonder whether this might be another one of those afternoons.
However, all such thoughts were banished in emphatic fashion seven minutes before the break.
Some fast-paced play saw Gilchrist released down the right and although his cross was over-hit, Kempster was able to retrieve it on the left flank and deliver a menacing ball which Osei met with a stunning header into the top corner as he deservedly notched his first goal at 1st Cloud Arena.
There was no let-up after that from the Mariners and they almost scored goal number two minutes later as Gilchrist’s cross from the right found Kempster at the back post and his sliding effort was sliced over his own bar by Neill Byrne, whose heart must have been in his mouth as the ball fizzed over the crossbar.
Halifax threatened an equaliser in the closing moments of the first half, with Maher drawing Myles Boney into a save with a strike from outside the box before the same player headed against the post from the resulting corner.
It was to be expected that Pete Wild’s side would produce a reaction in the second half and so it proved, particularly in the early stages of it.
They had a chance within a minute of the restart when a scooped ball into the box by Jeff King found Gold Omotayo and his half-volley went over the bar.
There was another opportunity as Kieran Green’s cross was powerfully headed wide by Williams while Boney kept out a long range effort from Martin Woods as Shields continued to weather the storm.
The hosts got through that difficult period and almost found their reward for it when Hunter’s low ball into the box was curled just wide by Osei but with 19 minutes left, Shields did get their nerve-settler.
So many players had come to the fore in this match for the Mariners but none more so than Briggs, who truly deserved his moment of magic which took his side within touching distance of the first round.
He showed real intelligence to beat his man on the right flank and then ghosted inside, beating a defender before picking out the bottom corner with a magnificently placed left-foot effort from the edge of the area.
Halifax were running out of time to force their way back into the tie and attempted to pressurise their hosts with a number of deliveries from wide areas, but Boney and his defence were equal to them as Shields comfortably saw out the final minutes to complete a historic victory.
They can now look forward to the first round draw ahead of Tuesday’s league fixture at home to FC United of Manchester.
South Shields: Boney, Sterry (Baxter 89), Adams, Ross, Morse, Turnbull, Hunter, Briggs (c), Gilchrist (Hindle 67), Osei (Verstraaten 90+2), Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew, Gillies, McCamley.
Goals: Osei (38), Briggs (71).
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).