South Shields recorded a fifth consecutive clean sheet and were rewarded with a fourth straight victory as a Robert Briggs penalty settled a Pitching In Northern Premier League encounter with Gainsborough Trinity on Saturday.
In their final league fixture before a month-long lockdown, the Mariners enjoyed the bulk of the possession and chances and deserved their win at the Gainsborough Martin & Co Arena.
They came up against an impressive goalkeeper in Tom Jackson, though, and were kept at bay until midway through the second half when Briggs converted a spot-kick following a foul on Jordan Hunter.
Shields will take their impressive form into one of the biggest games in the club’s history on Saturday when they travel to Cheltenham Town in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Full report to follow.
South Shields: Boney, Sterry, Adams (McCamley 64), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Hunter (Baxter 83), Turnbull, Osei (Hindle 76), Briggs, Kempster. Subs not used: Thompson, Gillies.
Goal: Briggs (pen 71).
Image: Kev Wilson.
Robert Briggs delivered a Halloween treat for South Shields supporters as his second half strike saw off the challenge of Colne in the Buildbase FA Trophy.
In a hard-fought third qualifying round tie at 1st Cloud Arena, Briggs came off the bench to grab the only goal of the game and ensure the Mariners made it three wins in a row in three separate competitions.
It was also a fourth consecutive clean sheet for Shields as they defeated a side which had frustrated and ultimately eliminated them from the Emirates FA Cup just over a year earlier.
There were six changes to the Shields side which won by the same scoreline against FC United of Manchester four days earlier, with Mathew Wade, Craig Baxter, Arron Thompson, Wouter Verstraaten, Will McCamley and Josh Gillies introduced to the starting line-up.
Colne kept a clean sheet on their last visit to South Tyneside and goalkeeper Hakan Burton showed his determination to keep the Mariners at bay again when he was called into action to make a stunning stop from point-blank range 18 minutes in as McCamley connected with Alex Kempster’s low cross.
The next opportunity for the hosts originated on the right flank and again McCamley was at the heart of it as he cut inside before firing an effort which Burton parried against Jack Hindle before the ball bounced wide.
Colne came into the match in fine form having started their league campaign impressively, and they showed considerable energy in the first half as they consistently pressed their hosts.
Advances into the final third were rare, although the visitors almost took the lead seven minutes before half-time as some fine one-touch play eventually resulted in a chance for substitute Sam O’Halleron, who stabbed a shot goalwards only for Myles Boney to superbly keep it out with his foot.
Burton also used his legs to deny Hindle before the break as the first half ended goalless in blustery conditions at 1st Cloud Arena.
Briggs had been introduced from the bench during the first 45 minutes in place of the unfortunate Wade, who was forced off with an injury.
He slotted into Shields’ five-man defence, but it was to be at the other end that he would make his most vital contribution.
That was not before two half-chances for Hindle to break the deadlock in the early stages of the second half, with a cross by Kempster hitting him and going wide before a strike from 25 yards by the frontman went wide.
There was an element of fortune about the goal which would prove to be the winner, and it arrived on 54 minutes.
Gillies’ corner from the left lacked the power required to take it into the six-yard box but Briggs got to it first, turned and sent in what appeared to be a teasing low cross which evaded everyone before nestling in the corner of the net.
Shields were unable to press ahead with their advantage after that, with Colne able to mainly restrict the home side to efforts from distance.
Gillies had a strike deflected wide and Blair Adams also sent a shot past the post but the Reds remained in contention heading into the closing stages as they attempted to force a penalty shootout.
Boney saved confidently from Reece Webb-Foster and Anthony Williams before an even better stop denied Harry Winstanley deep into stoppage time as the goalkeeper dived to his right and held onto the effort superbly.
That sealed his fourth successive clean sheet as Shields’ progression to the first round of the competition was secured.
South Shields: Boney, Wade (Briggs 33), Adams, Shaw (c) (Morse 71), Baxter, Thompson, Verstraaten, McCamley, Hindle (Hodgson 83), Gillies, Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Croft, Turnbull, Jenkins.
Goal: Briggs (54).
Image: Kev Wilson.
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.