Bell Chimes In To Sink Shields
An added-time strike by super sub Nyal Bell saw County edge, by the odd goal in three, a tricky and closely-fought FA Cup-tie at South Shields.
The Hatters had to come from behind against the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League leaders, before a Sam Walker equaliser ahead of half-time, and then Bell’s late winner, not only steered them into Monday’s 1pm draw for the Third Qualifying Round, but also avoided establishing an unwanted new record for their earliest September exit from the competition.
County took to the field in bright Tyneside sunshine, and with a 4-4-2 line-up unchanged from that which had started at Telford one week earlier. Newly-returned loanee Elliot Osborne was named among the seven substitutes permitted in the FA Cup, having arrived at Edgeley Park from Southport the previous day for his second spell as a Hatter.
After some tight opening exchanges that produced little of note, a player from each side sent a shot wide of goal around the 10-minute mark – with Darren Stephenson and, subsequently, Gavin Cogdon drilling beyond the respective right and left posts.
Frank Mulhern fired a pair of attempts wide and high within two minutes, but the hosts – with a 100 percent winning league record at the Jarrow-based Mariners Park stadium since early April – had begun to show their attacking credentials. And with just over half an hour played, they took the lead when Blair Adams, fed by Cogdon, delivered a low cross from the right for Carl Finnigan to convert from close range.
Their advantage was only to last six minutes – during which period they also lost leading scorer Cogdon to injury. A County corner from Adam Thomas on the left, immediately following Cogdon’s replacement, was then spilled by goalkeeper Liam Connell – possibly with the sun in his eyes – and duly prodded over the line by Walker, to send the teams in at half-time on level terms.
HALF-TIME: South Shields 1 (Finnigan, 31), County 1 (Walker, 37).
Connor Dimaio, who had curled a shot narrowly over following County’s first-half leveller, was replaced ahead of the resumption by Osborne – who proceeded to inspire in midfield with much the same flair as he had done whilst on loan during 2016/17.
The Hatters collectively were to enjoy a greater share of possession in the second half, as they strove to create chances that might render a replay three nights later unnecessary. But Connell thwarted their efforts – safely gathering an under-hit shot on the turn from Stephenson, before parrying well-struck ones by Mulhern and Osborne.
Just over a quarter of an hour from time, Bell replaced Mulhern in a straight swap up front – and within three minutes of joining the fray, he blasted over from County’s ninth corner of the day, which had been taken on the right by Walker and headed on by Jordan Keane.
But the substitute made no mistake one minute into added time – swivelling to left-foot home a Walker free-kick from the left, and thereby enabling the Hatters to leave Jarrow on the march to the next stage of their Cup journey a fortnight hence.
FULL-TIME: South Shields 1 (Finnigan, 31), County 2 (Walker, 37; Bell, 90 + 1).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Cowan, Thomas, Walker, Mulhern (Bell, 74), Dimaio (Osborne, 46), Stephenson (Mantack, 90 + 4).
Unused Subs: Downing, Ormson, Kirby, Warburton.
Man of the Match (as judged for The Non-League Paper): Walker.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.