SSFC Academy reach first national cup final
A late Will McCamley penalty steered South Shields Academy into their first national cup final as they secured a hard-fought win over Maidstone United at Mariners Park.
The young Mariners enjoyed the majority of the possession and chances in the National League Alliance Under-19 League Cup semi-final, but had to wait until the 87th minute to make their breakthrough.
McCamley was coolness personified from the spot as Shields set up a final with Basford United.
The game was played in a strong wind and Shields had it with them in the first half.
They created numerous opportunities but were unable to find a way past Maidstone goalkeeper Ethan Collen.
Collen denied Ethan Biwer early on and Shields went close again when a McCamley cross held in the air and just cleared the crossbar.
The young Mariners’ best chance of the first half fell to Max Cowburn after some superb work from David Allasan on the left of the box, but after the ball was fired across the area, Cowburn was unable to convert from close range.
Maidstone created an opportunity of their own as a through ball played in Ollie Aston, but he fired over.
That was a rare opportunity for the visitors, and Shields will have been disappointed not to go in ahead at half-time as McCamley hit one just wide, Allasan had an effort deflected past the post and Cowburn blasted a shot not far wide from distance.
Shields were playing against the wind in the second half and took some time to adapt.
Eventually, they took control again and almost took the lead when McCamley brilliantly set up Callum Guy, but he struck the post.
McCamley also went close as he fired into the side netting from a Cowburn corner, before Shields brought on Sam Hodgson and Dom Minchella as they shook things up at the top of the pitch.
They almost broke the deadlock with 14 minutes left when Guy worked some space for himself before hitting a low effort which Collen got down well to tip wide.
Direct play by Minchella down the right looked like it might reap dividends when he pulled the ball across the area, but some brave defending denied Hodgson a tap-in.
Shields were almost made to pay for their missed chances as Matt Weller aimed for goal from the edge of the box, but the ball bounced just wide as the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
The Mariners had to show patience for their breakthrough, and it finally arrived with three minutes left.
Minchella was fouled in the box and McCamley made no mistake from the spot as he sent his penalty down the middle.
Shields saw the game out well to secure their place in the final.
SSFC Academy team to play Maidstone United: Armstrong, Yembe, Lockey, Thompson, Patterson, Bexton (c), McCamley, Biwer, Cowburn (Hodgson 69), Guy (Black 90+1), Allasan (Minchella 65). Subs not used: Errington, Croft.
Goal: McCamley (pen 87).