Ebac Northern League First Division South Shields are within sight of Wembley after winning the first leg of their Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Final against Midland League Premier Division Coleshill Town on Saturday – but they will need to produce a much better performance to go through.
They came from behind to win 2-1, with Andrew Stephenson – who scored in both legs of Spennymoor’s semi-final win over Guernsey in 2013 – scoring the winner to send the 300 or so travelling Shields fans home happy, but not exactly 100 per cent confident that a Wembley place is theirs for definite.
Shields were well below their best, a fact that wasn’t lost on joint-manager Graham Fenton. “I thought our performance was abject at times because we weren’t up to our normal levels, especially in the first half,” he said. “I think we were trying to feel them out a little bit in the first half and they came out at us and took the game to us. They were a little bit physical and went 1-0 up.
“We had a few words at half-time, and the lads came out for the second half and gave it a real go. Yes, we weren’t at our best, but sometimes you have to dig in, like we did in the second half.
“We’ve won our last twenty-three games in a row now, and we’ll be looking to make it twenty-four on the trot for the second leg. It will be a great occasion for everybody and we’re going to have 3,500 in there cheering the lads on. We’ve got to get the supporters on our side from the first thing that we do, so we’ve got to come out really quick.
“We know that we can step up a couple of levels, and if we can do that, then Coleshill will have their hands full next week.”
Coleshill had the better of the first half and took the lead just before half-time, Jordan Nadat scoring from a loose ball after Shields keeper Liam Connell had blocked a header by Gio Dainty.
But Shields were level 2 minutes into the second half when David Foley equalised after the Coleshill keeper failed to a hold a driven low cross by Andrew Stephenson.
Shields slowly got on top after that, and got the winner with a minute of normal time left when Darren Lough’s low shot was turned in by Stephenson.
It’s honours` even after the first leg of the other Semi-Final as Midland League Division One side Bromsgrove Sporting and Toolstation Northern Counties East League Premier Division leaders Cleethorpes Town drew 1-1.
A second half own goal by Luke Edwards drew the Owls level, cancelling out Jason Cowley’s opener for the hosts in front of a crowd of 3,349 at the Victoria Ground.
The crucial second leg, which will decide which of the two sides will book their place in the Wembley final will take place at Bradley next Saturday at it`s all-ticket.