Cool, calm Carl Finnigan happy to be put on the spot for South Shields

Carl Finnigan puts South Shields 1-0 up from the spot. Finnigan then wheels away to celebrate with his team-mates. Pictures by Peter Talbot.
Carl Finnigan puts South Shields 1-0 up from the spot. Finnigan then wheels away to celebrate with his team-mates. Pictures by Peter Talbot.
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“I absolutely love that sort of situation” – Carl Finnigan has opened up about the spot-kick that got South Shields on their way to FA Vase glory.

And he revealed it was only decided in the hours before the game on Sunday morning that of the three 30-plus goal strikers in the Mariners squad, it would be him who shoulder the responsibility of penalty duty.

Just before the break Gavin Cogdon had his ankle clipped in the Cleethorpes area and a penalty was awarded.

Cool and calm Finnigan then stepped up to slot home to become the first ever Shields player to net under the famous Wembley arch.

Now, with so much at stake – at the national stadium, in a final, in front a massive crowd – that kind of pressure has the potential to make many a frontman crumble.

Not former Newcastle United man Finnigan.

Instead he admits that he thrives on that kind of situation, despite carrying the hopes of around 15,000 Mariners fans on the Wembley terraces.

“There was no one behind the goal – if there were 20,000 people behind the goal I might have felt differently,” said the 30-year-old, who netted Shields opener in the 4-0 win over the Owls yesterday.

“It was cool and calm, as ever. No nerves for me.

“When it went in it felt pretty special. We had discussed who would take before the game and we all decided that it would be me to take it.

“It’s a lifelong ambition to play at Wembley, to score, at the end of such a remarkable season is the stuff dreams are made of.”

In an exclusive interview with the Gazette last week Finnigan revealed that he would air his Alan Shearer celebration should he net on the day.

And he delivered, wheeling away with one arm in the air having opened the scoring.

But this time, there was an exception.

At the end of the famous routine he produced a bizarre hand gesture which when questioned he called ‘the snake’.

“It is nowhere near as sinister as it sounds,” said Finnigan, who was forced off midway through the second 45 with a calf strain.

“It is in dressing room banter and I can’t really let it out.

“Too right I got the arm up but to be honest I was too busy thinking about the snake. I nearly forgot to do it.”

While Finnigan’s strike got the ball rolling, it was the all-action displays of his two strike partners which stole the headlines.

Gavin Cogdon did everything but score on the day, while David Foley had to wait until the closing five minutes to get in on the act, netting twice to put the icing on the cake for the Mariners late on.

Finnigan says Shields’ win owes much to the endeavours of Foley and Cogdon.

“Foley and Titch ran them ragged,” he said.

“That allowed me the space to get on the ball and create chances for others.

“They were outstanding. Have been all season.

“We could not have done it without those two causing problems down both wings.”

While the players did the business on the park – the fans more than did their’s on the terraces.

On Saturday night Covent Garden was invaded, peacefully, flooded with claret and blue.

Wembley was graced by a non-league following this stadium has rarely ever seen, and may never see again.

Finnigan says they owe much to the punters who made the long trip down to roar their hometown club on to glory.

“To do it in front of a crowd that size, all from our area was pretty special. It was half of South Shields in that corner,” said Finnigan.

“The South Shields end was bouncing.

“They gave us a lift when we needed it.

“I think we repaid their support by lifting the trophy.

“From the minute we set off on the bus it has been pretty special. They have supported us home, away, everywhere.

“To win the game itself, and get a memorable goal made that even more special.”