Blinco, Finnigan double up as South Shields clinch third cup final date
South Shields made it a hat-trick of cup finals last night as they eased past holders Shildon in the Northern League Cup semi-final.
After falling behind early on, the Mariners came storming back to win 4-1 against a 10-man Shildon side.
Carl Finnigan netted twice and former Sunderland youngster Jordan Blinco also scored a brace to cap a fine debut.
The Mariners will face cross-river rivals North Shields in a mouthwatering final on a date and at a venue yet to be confirmed.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side have now won an incredible 25 games in a row, but fell behind after just five minutes at Dean Street.
The goal was contentious, with Shields having heavy claims for a foul in the centre of the park waved away before Michael Rae raced through and slotted past Liam Connell.
The Mariners’ fightback was immediate as they enjoyed good possession, and when Blinco was fouled in the area, last man Jamie Harwood was given a straight red card.
It was the Shildon captain’s second dismissal against Shields this season, having suffered the same fate in the league fixture between the sides in October.
Finnigan rattled in the penalty, but there was little else of note in the first half, aside from a bullet of a free-kick from Iulian Petrache for the Mariners which didn’t clear the bar by much.
Shields improved after the break, and Blinco was denied by a fine save before putting Shields ahead soon after when he stroked the ball home after a knock down from Finnigan.
Petrache went close again within two minutes of that as he brought the ball out of defence before unleashing a stunning effort from 30 yards which Nick Liversedge tipped over.
The ever-reliable Liam Connell kept the scores level with an excellent save with his foot to deny Rae, and Shields did not look back.
Blinco made the result safe as he received the ball on the edge of the box before firing into the bottom corner.
He went agonisingly close to his hat-trick, too, but his header was clawed away by Liversedge as he made a superb save.
Finnigan had the last word as his header from a Wayne Phillips cross looped in the air before nestling in the bottom corner. It was his 23rd goal of the season.
He twice went close to a hat-trick late on, but was narrowly off target on both occasions.
The Mariners now have three cup finals to look forward to at the end of the season, and now face arguably their biggest challenge, clawing back North Shields’ 17 point advantage in the league.
They go to Ryhope Colliery Welfare on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Petrache (Smith 71), Arca (c) (Storey 61), Nicholson, Phillips, Finnigan, Stephenson, Blinco (Ramsey 84).
Goals: Finnigan (pen 13, 83), Blinco (52, 76).