Champion Under-15s complete season

Russell Foster Youth League Under-15s Division Two

Sunday, May 17 2015

Swalwell Swifts vs South Shields FC

South Shields FC: Ramage, Rafferty, Henderson, Gilchrist, McGill, Howe, Daglish, Urwin, Birkett, Hogg, McBeth.

Sub: Slater.

Goalscorers: Howe, Birkett, Henderson, Slater.

Report by Philip Reay

The Professional Flooring Services-sponsored South Shields Under-15 side rounded off the season with a 4-0 victory at Swalwell Swifts.

With the title secured, the team needed two things to complete the season: a goal to take their total for the season in the league to 100, and a goal for Ethan Henderson.

The game started with the Shields side playing into the face of a strong breeze, that combined with the rock hard pitch, made it difficult to play attractive and flowing football.

The young Mariners started quite brightly, and inside the first five minutes, Codie Howe won the ball in a central position before releasing Scott Rafferty on the right flank. Rafferty controlled the ball before outpacing his marker and rifling a shot at goal that flew inches wide of the upright.

A minute later, the Swalwell defence was again under pressure as Tom Birkett collected the ball and fired a first time shot from 25 yards that flew agonisingly wide.

Shields continued to pressurise the Swalwell defence as rampaging Rafferty again broke forward on the right flank and combined with Howe, but again his finishing let him down as his shot cleared the bar.

On 10 minutes, a long clearance by the Swalwell keeper was chased down by their centre forward, but he was crowded out by the Shields defence and Jack Ramage comfortably collected the ball.

In the starting line-up for the first time since the injury at Hetton eight weeks ago, James Hogg outpaced the defence on the right flank before releasing Birkett, but his shot didn’t trouble the keeper as it cleared the bar.

On the quarter-hour, Shields were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal following a harsh handball decision. Howe placed the ball and fired it towards goal. As a man, the Swalwell defensive wall jumped as he struck the ball, and with the perfect daisy cutter, it crept into the back of the net to give the side their 100th goal of the season.

In his post-match interview, Howe claimed to have anticipated the wall would jump and had deliberately struck the ball low. We all believe you Codie, honestly we do.

The Swalwell side defended well, and their play belied their lowly position as they restricted the Shields side to long range attempts on goal.

As the half approached the midpoint, Birkett raced through the Swalwell defence, but at the vital moment the ball struck a divot and as it bobbled, he shinned it wide of the goal.

Long range shots by Howe, Sam Urwin and Birkett followed, but all failed to trouble the Swalwell keeper.

On the half-hour, another long range shot, this time from Lewis Slater, hit the bar, and Birkett reacted quickest to fire in from close range to double the Shields advantage.

A minute later, and from an Alex McBeth corner the keeper punched the ball clear but only as far as Henderson. He volleyed it straight back, but he was not to get his goal as the ball flew wide of the post. So close, and yet so far.

As Shields continued to pressurise the Swalwell defence, they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box that was launched into the centre by Slater. The ball was cleared by the defence, but only as far as Urwin, and he volleyed the ball first time towards goal, but his shot grazed the top of the bar and out for a goal kick.

In the closing minutes of the half, Howe cut through the Swalwell defence before crossing the ball to Liam Simpson McGill. Unfortunately McGill, a scholar at the McBeth school of heading, sent his effort wide of the post.

The last action of the half saw Slater denied by a good save from the Swalwell keeper, and the sides went into the break with Shields holding a two-goal advantage.

At the start of the second half, the Swalwell keeper was quickly called to action as Urwin turned away from his marker before driving the ball towards goal, only to be denied by the keeper.

The second half also saw Henderson taking up a more advanced position. Simpson McGill and George Daglish combined on the left flank to release Henderson, but his shot was blocked by the Swalwell defence.

The Swalwell defence continued to thwart the attempts of the Shields side to increase their advantage as Slater, Howe, Urwin and Birkett all had shots at goal that failed to trouble the keeper.

On 50 minutes, Henderson released Simpson McGill, and he fired a shot from the angle of the box that flew inches wide of the post.

A minute later, Birkett collected the ball on the edge of the box before firing a shot towards goal that was well saved by the keeper.

The Swalwell defence was holding firm against an onslaught from the young Mariners. On 55 minutes, Slater picked the ball up midway inside the Swalwell half. He spotted the keeper off his line and lobbed the ball towards goal, but it flew inches over the bar.

On the hour, McBeth broke forward having been given a deeper role to play in the second half, but his shot was well saved by the Swalwell keeper.

On 67 minutes, the second box of the game was ticked as after 2,099 minutes of football and 121 goals, Ethan Henderson became the last of the outfield players to score a goal. Daglish advanced down the right flank before playing the ball to Henderson, and following a good touch, he calmly and coolly slotted the ball beyond the keeper for his first goal of the season.

Within a minute, Shields further extended their advantage as Slater fired home from the edge of the box.

Try as they might, Shields were unable to add to their total. The best opportunity came in the closing stages of the game. Edward Gilchrist picked the ball up on the edge of the box and advanced towards goal, but with only the keeper to beat, jigsaw again went to pieces in the box and the danger was cleared.

The final whistle brought great celebrations from the young Mariners as they celebrated on the pitch. Several bottles of bubbly were opened and sprayed on players, coaches and families.

On the downside, the weather held firm and we are still to see the magical properties of Stuart’s great umbrella – here’s to next season.

A great season of 20 league games, 18 victories, one draw and only one defeat, 103 goals scored, 16 conceded, seven clean sheets and failed to score once, and of course, league champions.

Congratulations to the players and coaches on the achievements this season. You have all been great ambassadors for the club, and long may it continue.