North Shields into Senior Cup final after penalty shoot-out win over Newcastle United U23s
After 120 minutes and 23 penalties, Gary Ormston stepped up to book holders North Shields a place in the Northumberland Cup Senior Cup final.
A bitterly cold, but special night at the Daren Persson saw Jon McDonald’s side set-up the opportunity to retain their Senior Cup title under the lights at St James’ Park.
Ryan Carr put Shields ahead early in the first half, a half that should have seen the hosts go into half-time with a bigger lead.
But after 45 minutes of the Robins in control, Newcastle United Under-23s placed the Shields back line under immense pressure once Haris Vuckic levelled in the 50th minute.
The Robins dug deep to keep the Magpies out for all but a further 70 minutes before a crazy, long, penalty shoot-out eventually saw Shields run out 10-9 winners.
Newcastle fielded four players who have featured in their first team in the FA Cup this season in Curtis Good, Stuart Findlay, Dan Barlaser and Yasmin El-Mhanni.
Though despite Peter Beardsley fielding a strong side at the Morgue, that could not prevent Carr from opening the scoring in the eighth minute for the home side after keeper Nathan Harker fumbled the ball from a corner.
Shields were keen to build on their early advantage as top scorer Lee Mason oversaw the best opportunities for the hosts.
Mason forced a good save from Harker in the 14th minute before a Toon defender made a crucial block to deny the forward another clean strike on goal.
Craig McFarlane was also close to scoring following a fine Robins move as his powerful shot went inches wide of Harker’s far post.
In between Shields’ chances, United earned a rare sniff at the home goal as Vuckic picked up a ball over the top to round keeper Kyle Hayes, but he took too long to shoot as the Robins shot-stopper made a heroic recovery.
McFarlane hit a good early second-half opportunity wide before Newcastle began to take the game to the Robins.
When Vuckic brought the visitors level in the 50th minute with a neat turning finish from inside the box, the Magpies looked almost certain to find another. Though for all of their possession, it counted for nothing.
And that was to the credit of the Shields defence. Curtis Coppen and Kevin Hughes were there to clear every ball that found itself in the Robins territory, along with McFarlane and Dean Holmes, who showed equal hard-working efforts to help out their full backs Jack Donnison and Marc Lancaster.
But the Robins’ non-stop efforts were telling as boss McDonald had to use all three of his substitutions before extra-time as Mason, Lancaster and Adam Forster all fell victims of cramp.
Shields went close to a winner when the ball ran through to substitute Gareth Bainbridge, but the striker could only hit his shot straight at the on-rushing Harker in the 85th minute.
Many would have expected Newcastle’s fitness levels to prove the difference in extra-time, but anyone who has watched the Robins regularly this season knows this side never gives up.
When the Shields defence was breached, Hayes was on hand to make sure his side took the game into penalties after making near one-on-one saves against debutant Victor Fernandez, Lewis McNall and Findlay.
In the shoot-out, both side’s third and sixth takers missed in Donnison and Jordan Summerly for Shields and McNall and Fernandez for United.
It then took until the tenth spot-kick for the next miss as under-23s captain Jack Hunter saw his effort saved, leaving Ormston to tuck away the decisive spot-kick to set-up a final with either Blyth Spartans or Blyth Town.
Ormston opened the scoring for Shields in last year’s final against Blyth Spartans, where the Robins went on to lift the trophy with an exhilarating 4-3 win.