SSFC Academy pull off ‘best win yet’ to reach second national final
An 89th minute winner by Sam Hodgson fired South Shields Academy into their second national final of the season as they brilliantly beat a strong Hartpury College side on Wednesday.
The young Mariners were up against some top talent in the ECFA National Play-Off semi-final in Gloucester but showed tremendous character to pull through.
Joint manager Lee Picton declared the win as “probably the best” the Academy has produced since its inception in the summer of 2017.
They will now compete in the final of the competition at Port Vale FC’s Vale Park on Thursday, May 9.
That will come a day after they take on Basford United in the final of the National League Under-19 Alliance League Cup at Walsall FC’s Banks’s Stadium.
Dom Minchella gave Shields the lead against Hartpury with a brilliant solo effort which went in off the post just before the 20-minute mark.
Hartpury hit back with an equaliser scored by England Schoolboys player King Baidoo on 68 minutes, but the young Mariners were not to be denied.
Hodgson netted the winner with a minute left to play as he finished off a counter-attack to spark jubilant scenes.
Picton and fellow joint manager Graham Fenton were left delighted by the performance of their players.
Picton said: “This was a game in which we had to play a completely different style to the one we usually employ.
“We knew we were up against a very strong outfit, and we decided to sit off and drop right in.
“We played counter-attacking football, which is something the lads aren’t used to, but they executed the gameplan brilliantly.
“Hartpury probably had something like 70% of the possession, and because we successfully frustrated them and hit them on the break, we had the best chances of the game.
“If we had been a little bit more clinical in front of goal, we could have won by a slightly bigger margin.
“The general character and determination shown by the lads was incredible.”
Picton added: “Hartpury had some unbelievable talent on show, but we didn’t give them the space to really hurt us.
“Defensively, we were absolutely outstanding.
“It was probably the best win our Academy has had since it started.
“We’re now into two national finals, which is absolutely fantastic.
“Unfortunately the finals are on consecutive days, which is going to give us a headache in terms of logistics.
“We’ve just got to try to put out two really strong teams and do our best to win them both.
“It’s going to be a fantastic experience for the players.”
SSFC Academy team against Hartpury College: Steavens, Yembe, Croft, Biwer, Patterson, Lockey, Minchella, S Black, S Hodgson, Scott, McCamley. Subs: Carney, Elcoate, Jenkins, Colquhoun.