Consett 1 South Shields 3: Stephenson the hero as Mariners storm into County Cup final
South Shields booked a place in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup after seeing off Consett with a clinical display at Belle View.
Star man Andrew Stephenson scored a brace, while Carl Finnigan netted a stunning volley as Shields made it 22 wins in a row.
The hosts pulled a goal back in the second half, but succumbed to a 3-1 defeat as the Mariners marched on.
They will meet Billingham Synthonia in the final at Hartlepool United’s Victoria Park on Wednesday, May 3.
Shields had to weather a storm in the early stages of last night’s semi-final, after Consett came storming out of the blocks.
Michael Sweet headed a big chance wide at the back post, while Luke Sullivan went close to handing the Steelmen the lead when his shot across goal went narrowly wide.
Sullivan also sent a half-volley over from the edge of the box, with all of that action within the first seven minutes.
Shields needed a spark and got just that in the eighth minute.
Stephenson danced his way past two defenders in the box before dinking the ball over home goalkeeper Peter Jeffries to put the Mariners in front.
Shields grew from there, and Gavin Cogdon went close to making it two when he fired just wide.
Jeffries then made an incredible save from the same player when, after Michael Richardson played in Cogdon, the goalkeeper made a stunning one-handed stop from point-blank range.
Jordan Lavery flashed an effort not far over for the hosts, and that was the closest they came to equalising.
Shields’ second goal came on the half hour mark, and in some style.
After some fine interplay in midfield, the ball bounced up for Finnigan, who sent a superb left-foot volley over Jeffries’ head and in off the bar.
Finnigan was withdrawn before half-time with a groin injury, and his replacement, David Foley, forced an impressive stop from Jeffries before the break.
Stephenson was also denied in stoppage time, but the Mariners were dealt another fitness blow when Cogdon had to be brought off at half-time with a hamstring injury.
It took just three minutes into the second half for Shields to make it 3-0, with Richardson getting in down the right and pulling a low ball across for Stephenson, who slotted in his second.
It was not all one-way traffic, with Consett offering a spirited response.
Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell somehow kept out an effort from Daniel Hawkins from close range, while Dillon Morse did brilliantly to keep out the rebound.
Consett pulled one back with 36 minutes left when Daniel Craggs’ corner hit Sullivan and then Sweet before nestling in the bottom corner.
But there was no way back for the Steelmen, despite some half chances.
At the other end, Foley and Richardson narrowly failed to wrap the tie up, while Consett were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as substitute Christopher Rogan was given a straight red card for a foul on Richardson.
With that, the tie was over as Shields continued their club-record run and booked their place in the final.
They will hope to keep that going on Saturday when they travel to Sunderland RCA in Northern League Division One.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Briggs (c), Morse, Storey, Stephenson, Holden (Baxter 80), Cogdon (Arca 46), Richardson, Finnigan (Foley 41). Subs not used: Parkin, Shaw.
Goals: Stephenson (8, 48), Finnigan (30)