Academy set for semi-final at 1st Cloud Arena

Academy set for semi-final at 1st Cloud Arena

The club’s Academy Under-19 players face one of the biggest games of their young careers on Wednesday when they take on FC Halifax Town. 

A place in the final of the National League Academy Cup is at stake, with the young Mariners having enjoyed a tremendous run to the semi-final of the competition.

Shields are competing against teams from the leagues above them, having been given special dispensation to enter the cup because of their consistently strong performances over the last five years.

Wednesday’s tie will be held at 1st Cloud Arena and will be open for supporters to watch for free, with the match to kick-off at 2pm.

The ground will be open from 1pm, with the downstairs bar and clubhouse kiosk set to be in operation.

Lead 16-19s coach Andy Inness said: “For most of the group, this will be the biggest game they’ve played in terms of the occasion.

“It’s a national cup semi-final in an excellent competition against teams from leagues above the one we usually operate at.

“They’ve done brilliantly to make it this far and have proved they’re more than capable of playing at that level.

“Now it’s about delivering on Wednesday and dealing with the pressure of the occasion and the fact it’s at 1st Cloud Arena, which always adds a little bit more to it.

“The biggest message from me is that it’s just a game.

“They’ve got to play the game and not the occasion, and remember that it’s still 11 vs 11 regardless of who your opponent is.”

Shields bounced back to winning ways last Wednesday with a 4-0 win over Scarborough Athletic, with goals from Lewis Lukeman, Dan Waldon, Nathan Kidd and Alfie Marriott sealing the win.

That followed the young Mariners’ first defeat of the National League Under-19 Alliance season a week earlier, when they were beaten 3-0 by Frickley Athletic.

Inness added: “The result and performance against Frickley was a big shock to me, because that group had never performed like that in my time at the club.

“We had an honest conversation about it after the game and the reaction from the lads was first-class on the training pitch.

“On Wednesday they transferred that into a brilliant performance, because they were excellent against Scarborough and fully deserved their win.

“We’ve got to keep pushing and trying to make what they do feels enjoyable instead of pressurised.”