Three down, one to go.
Wembley is on the horizon for South Shields, but if anyone thought the Mariners may have been distracted by the prospect of playing at the famous stadium, they have well and truly put that to bed.
Since clinching a place in the FA Vase Final against Cleethorpes, Shields have lifted the Northern League title, won the Durham Challenge Cup, and on Saturday made it a treble with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over North Shields in the League Cup Final.
This was supposed to be the toughest of tests. Up against one of the teams that had ran them so close in the league all season – the last side to defeat the Mariners, in fact, back in November – many watchers thought it would be a close encounter.
I predicted it could go all the way to penalties. Shows how much I know.
The game was over within 33 minutes, though in truth, it had probably been determined long before kick-off.
The talk at Hillheads as the players warmed up was that North Shields boss John McDonald had been told he would be let go after the game, a remarkable turn of events after he’d guided the Robins to 101 points in the league this season after taking over from Graham Fenton when he’d crossed the Tyne back in September.
Player power was one rumour for his departure, and the North Shields players hardly went out of their way to prove otherwise with an insipid performance bizarrely lacking in fight given it was a cup final in front of a huge crowd.
That’s taking nothing away from South Shields, who ruthlessly capitalised on any lack of commitment from the opposition. Their performance had everything their rivals’ didn’t, and in Gavin Cogdon they had the sharpest player on the pitch.
Cogdon had already found himself in two great positions before his fifth-minute opener as his clever movement and speed of thought left the Robins defence outwitted. His goal, a 25-yard dipping shot, may have owed a little to a slight deflection but it was no more than he deserved after setting the tone in the opening seconds.
On 13 minutes, Jon Shaw grabbed the second, ghosting in at the front post to head home an Alex Nicholson cross, though there was the slightest doubt about who got the last touch to that one as well. Sorry, Jon.
Cogdon breezed past a weak Kevin Highes challenge to make it 3-0 just after the half hour and the game was all but up for North Shields. they somehow made it to half time without further shame, but after the break Cogdon completed his hat-trick from the spot after Carl Finnigan was fouled by Kyle Hayes.
The final 30 minutes were almost played at walking pace as the Mariners strolled in the seaside sunshine, before Finnigan wrapped up the win from 25 yards.
Roll on May 21.
South Shields: Connell, Nicholson, Lough, Shaw (Petrache), Storey, Smith, Arca, Phillips (Briggs), Stephenson (Foley), Finnigan, Cogdon. Not used: Richardson