Robert Briggs scored a superb hat-trick as South Shields marched into the semi-finals of the Durham Challenge Cup on a bitterly cold night at Sunderland RCA.
Shields were twice pegged back in the first half but goals from Callum Guy, Nathan Lowe and Briggs after the break sealed their place in the last four.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton mixed experience with youth as teenagers Dan Lister, Ethan Biwer, Olly Scott and Guy were all handed starts.
They got off to the best possible start thanks to a stunning goal from Briggs.
Former Shields goalkeeper Scott Pocklington’s clearance fell to him 45 yards from goal and he brilliantly sent the ball back where it came from with a terrific lob.
Biwer kept Shields ahead soon after with a superb goal-line clearance, but RCA did equalise on 17 minutes as Greg Swansbury fired a low ball from the right into the roof of the net.
The Mariners were given a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead when Gavin Cogdon was fouled in the area seven minutes before half-time.
Briggs made no mistake from the spot as he squeezed his low penalty under the legs of Pocklington.
Shields did not carry that lead into half-time, though, with Nathan O’Neill equalising in the 45th minute with a powerful finish past Lister.
The Mariners kept their composure on what was a difficult surface, although they relied on an impressive double save from Lister to keep them level 20 minutes into the second half.
Another teenager from Shields’ academy, Max Cowburn, was brought on with 25 minutes remaining and he played a pivotal role in the goal which put their noses back in front.
He was played in on the right channel and then beat the home defence with a magnificent low cross which Guy sent into the net first time at the back post.
Guy was at the centre of the fourth goal, too, as he exchanged passes with Lowe before the midfielder calmly finished past Pocklington.
Between the goals, the superb Lister made a good reaction save to prevent a Jon Shaw own goal as he ensured the hosts were not given a route back into the tie.
The scoring was completed with the last kick of the game as Briggs was played in on the right of the box and made no mistake with a calm finish to seal a 5-2 win.
It was another fine evening’s work for the Mariners, who now switch their attentions to a home game against Whitby Town on Saturday in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lister, Biwer (Morse 66), Scott, Shaw (c), Brown, Mouanda, Lowe, Briggs, Harmison (Cowburn 66), Guy (Thompson 81), Cogdon. Subs not used: Baxter, Allasan.
Goals: Briggs (4, pen 39, 90+1), Guy (73), Lowe (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Title-chasing South Shields turn their attention to the cup on Tuesday – but Graham Fenton has warned they are in for a stern test at Sunderland RCA.
The Mariners are expected to make a number of changes for the trip to Meadow Park in the quarter-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
They go into the match on a high, having got the better of promotion rivals Farsley Celtic thanks to a 93rd minute winner from Dillon Morse on Saturday.
But joint manager Fenton insists they can not expect to have things all their own way against the Northern League side, managed by Martin Swales.
He said: “It’s always a difficult game against Sunderland RCA and you don’t expect anything different from Swaz’s teams.
“They’re difficult to play against and he refuses to let his players get away with anything less than 100% work-rate.
“If we think we’re going to have an easy evening, there’s nothing further from the truth.
“We expect a really tough game against them and we’ll have to show our qualities to come out on top.”
Fenton has also confirmed there will be changes to the starting line-up, with a number of the club’s academy prospects expected to be given a chance to shine.
He added: “We make no bones about it that we’ll be making changes.
“Some lads in our academy are doing exceptionally well at the moment and as we’ve always said, we’ve got to give them opportunities to prove themselves and play with first-team players.
“We’re going to make changes but I guarantee that whatever team is out there will be giving it a really good shot to get through to the next round.”
Kick-off is at 7.30pm and the post code of the ground is SR2 0RJ.
Squad: Dan Lister, Ethan Biwer, Craig Baxter, Gary Brown, Dillon Morse, Olly Scott, Jon Shaw, Robert Briggs, Callum Guy, Nathan Lowe, Ursene Mouanda, Arron Thompson, David Allasan, Gavin Cogdon, Max Cowburn, Ben Harmison.
South Shields have been handed an away tie against Sunderland RCA in the quarter-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
The Mariners defeated Chester-le-Street Town 2-1 in the second round on Tuesday to book their place in the last eight.
Shields and Sunderland RCA met in the second round of the competition last season, with an Andrew Stephenson hat-trick sealing a 3-2 victory for the Mariners.
The two teams also regularly met during Shields’ time in the Northern League, with a vital 2-1 success for the Mariners late in the 2016-17 season playing a huge role in their title win.
RCA are seventh in Northern League Division One and play at Meadow Park, which has a postcode of SR2 0RJ.
A date for the tie will be announced in due course.