Evo-Stik North leaders South Shields’ Emirates FA Cup run continued as they cruised to a stunning 3-0 win at Darlington on Saturday.
The Mariners were on top form across the pitch as they swept aside their National League North opponents to qualify for the third qualifying round.
Dillon Morse put them 1-0 up inside the first seven minutes, and Carl Finnigan added a deserved second before the half-hour mark against Darlington, who are ranked two leagues higher than Shields.
Finnigan then wrapped it up in the closing stages in front of a jubilant travelling support numbering more than 600.
It was comfortably the Mariners’ best performance of the season so far as they rose to the occasion.
They took the lead early on as Robert Briggs’ free-kick from the left was flicked on by Jon Shaw and brilliant fired into the roof of the net by Morse.
Shields dealt with everything Darlo could throw at them before doubling their lead on 27 minutes.
Jamie Holmes won the ball midway inside the opposition half and played in Anthony Callaghan down the left, whose low cross was slid in by Finnigan.
Shields’ work-rate from the front was superb as they stopped the supply to home striker Mark Beck.
Gavin Cogdon was among those leading from the front, and he almost made it three, only to be denied by a superb block from Terry Galbraith.
Cogdon was also prevented from having a tap-in at the back post by a great interception from Liam Marrs.
Shields were more dominant after the break, and only a brilliant double save by Adam Bartlett stopped them going three up as he kept out efforts from Cogdon and Holmes.
A big penalty appeal for handball was turned down and Shields played themselves into threatening positions on numerous occasions.
At the other end, they were rarely troubled, and goalkeeper Jack Norton – making his first start in place of the injured Liam Connell – dealt with crosses admirably.
Bartlett kept the score down, saving from Briggs after one of the Mariners’ best openings, before the victory was sealed with a minute left.
Shields broke well from a Darlington attack and Michael Richardson sprinted free on the left before squaring for Finnigan, who made no mistake.
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