The Anchors shocked their Step 3 opponents tonight, coming from a goal behind they pretty much dominated the second half and scored twice through Adam Nicholson in the last 20 minutes to see them through to the Durham County Challenge Cup semi finals for the first time. Despite the hosts resting some first team regulars their starting line up was pretty impressive and they’re huge favourites to be a step 2 side next season and Stockton showed their capabilities at this level.
Stockton kept the same team that beat Bishop Auckland on Saturday and they started the game slightly late because of travelling issues for players and officials
As you would expect the Mariners were slick and organised and moved the ball about well, closing down the Anchors quickly whenever they were in possession and the Anchors, more used to having their own way and dictating the pace took a while to settle into it. Brown went close with a header early on from a free kick and Alli’s shot from 20 yards was comfortable for Roberts to collect in the Stockton goal, the Mariners enjoyed some good possession inside the final third although it mostly came to nothing. It took 15 minutes before Stockton could register an attempt, Nicholson meeting Craggs corner on the volley and although well struck it wasn’t an issue for Boney as it flew a yard wide, it was however an indication of the problems to come for the Mariners from set pieces.
The best chance of the game fell to striker Jamie Owens who closed down Adams on the edge of his own box and nicked the ball away, Adams slipped and Owens was through on goal he elected for placement over power and curled it just the wrong side of the post. This did however give the Northern League Leaders some confidence and shortly after a nice ball from Portas found McWilliams in space he had time to pick out Craggs with a lovely swinging cross and Bony had to make an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar as it bounced up from his downward header.
But it was the NPL League Leaders who took the lead On 41 mins and a short pass on the halfway line caused the trouble, Alli pounced on it and fed the ball wide, took the return only to be clumsily fouled in a prime location, central 25 yards out. Josh GILLIES stepped up and curled a beauty that clipped the inside of the right post and into the net giving Roberts no chance. HT 1-0
Second half began with the Anchors looking much brighter and they started to build a bit of momentum, Risbrough turned inside the full back and his cross shot was left to drift by Bony and it was closer than he would have liked to the far post. Shortly after King had a good shot charged down and Woodhouses snap shot effort flew just over the bar.
The game was evenly poised and Stockton were more than holding their own with the step 3 opposition. The game changed on 70 minutes as the Anchors finally got some reward for their attacking intent. Craggs dangerous free kick was deflected for a corner, Craggs himself curled in the corner and the skipper Adam NICHOLSON managed to wrestle his way free of Browns attentions and convert it from close range at the near post.
The Anchors had the upper hand now and the movement of subs Roberts and Mulligan was stretching the tiring Mariners back line and just 2 minutes later Mulligans run into the box drew the defence to him and created a gap into which he played the ball across the box to Mikey Roberts who finished easily but the linesman decided he was offside and the cheers turned to jeers.
South Shields were still looking dangerous but the back line stood firm and worked very hard and denied them any real chances save for a long range shot which Roberts dealt with easily.
Stockton continued to pour forward and Lewis King was found by a lovely reverse pass inside the full back by Hayes and he fizzed in a cross but no one could get on the end of it.
With penalty kicks looming, The Anchors sealed the win in the 90th minute a Craggs free kick found Coulthard his header was blocked out for a corner which was swung in by Hayes to the far post and again Browns attempts to get inside his opposite numbers shirt came to nothing as NICHOLSON got free and forced the ball home from close range, cue massive celebrations. The Anchors saw out the final couple of minutes comfortably for a well deserved victory. FT 1-2
Super second half showing from the Anchors, they never really gave up any clear cut chances in the whole game and got better as the night wore on. Super performances from everyone especially Portas and Craggs in midfield, McWilliams, King and Coulthard were excellent as usual but no arguments about the MoM tonight the skip, Adam Nicholson.
The big games keep coming and we look forward to a massive clash this weekend with second placed Shildon, not exactly winner take all but a significant game as we start the run in to the end of the season.
South Shields FC: Bony, Hunter, Adams(c), Errington, Ross, Brown, Gillies, Guy, Mason, Jenkins, Alli.
Subs: Charlton, Wade, Baxter, Thompson, Hodgson.
Goals: Gillies 41′
Words: Lee Nicholson
Photos: Harry Cook/Ray Sharpe
Highlights: James Cartwright