South Shields Academy enjoyed an impressive start to the season, scoring a host of goals and staying unbeaten in the National League Under-19 Alliance Division I heading into lockdown at the start of November.
Sitting top of their league by three points and picking up four wins and a draw, Shields have only conceded three goals and kept three clean sheets, thanks to some solid defensive displays.
Highlights have included storming to a 7-1 win at the Washington Hub as they took on Pontefract Collieries Under-19s, with Harry Gardiner netting four goals for the hosts.
An all-North East clash with Newcastle Benfield in late October produced the young Mariners’ only draw of the league campaign so far, with Gardiner scoring again in a 2-2 draw north of the Tyne.
The FA Youth Cup provided the Shields youth side with a visit to Altrincham after reaching the final qualifying round by beating fellow North East sides Consett and Darlington. They also received a bye against North Shields due to a number of players self-isolating for the side across the river. Charlie McLeod and Oscar Taylor stole the show during this competition for the Mariners, with Charlie scoring five and Oscar four.
Shields are yet to begin their ECFA League campaign, with this expected to commence after lockdown. The side will be hoping to carry their stellar form forward and hope to travel to Billingham Synthonia in December to resume the season and work towards securing more wins and points throughout the remainder of the games.
South Shields came from behind to defeat Consett as they began their FA Youth Cup campaign with a 4-1 victory on Thursday.
The young Mariners – who reached the third round of the competition last season – showed early signs of nerves as they fell behind to a Will Gallagher goal.
They soon found their stride, though, and after Charlie McLeod and Harvey Neary had fired them into a half-time lead, Oscar Taylor added two more goals after the break to earn Shields a trip to North Shields in the first qualifying round.
Jon Shaw and Wess Brown’s side was lacking in Youth Cup experience, with many of the players who performed so admirably in 2019-20 having now moved into the Under-19s age group.
They almost started this season’s run in the competition in some style as McLeod and Declan Bissett combined well before McLeod fizzed a shot wide from 20 yards.
Shields fell behind on the quarter-hour mark, though, as goalkeeper Callum Dobson made a sharp save but Gallagher was on hand to convert the rebound.
The young Mariners gained the upper hand after that and deservedly brought themselves back on level terms midway through the first half.
Dom Agnew – who made an impressive 90-minute appearance for the first-team in Tuesday’s win over York City – launched a ball over the top and McLeod beat the goalkeeper to it before stroking an effort home.
They went close to a quickfire double as McLeod motored down the right flank and delivered a low cross which Taylor flicked wide, with the striker denied again soon after as he was found by another right-wing delivery.
McLeod was at the heart of much of Shields’ most impressive work and he went close to doubling his tally for the night when he angled an effort just past the post after gliding across the pitch from right to left.
Shields did get the second goal they had been threatening just before half-time as another ball over the top caused confusion and this time Harvey Neary got their first to prod home from the inside-right of the area.
There were chances at both ends at the start of the second half, with McLeod’s cross sent just wide by Taylor for the Mariners before Dobson was forced to make a decent save to preserve his side’s lead.
The Mariners registered the game’s crucial fourth goal just after the hour mark as substitute Jack Wilkinson received the ball on the right and sent in a low cross which Taylor controlled well before turning and calmly picking out the bottom corner.
Shields were in full control by that stage and after Wilkinson and Taylor had gone close to making it 4-1, Taylor did just that as he slid an effort across the goalkeeper after being found in space in the box.
The only debate left open was whether Taylor could complete his hat-trick but after Wilkinson picked him out with a menacing delivery from the right, he fired over from close range.
It was a promising start in the Youth Cup for the young Mariners and they can now look forward to a rematch with neighbours North Shields, who they defeated on their route to the third round last season.
South Shields: Dobson, Neary, Hopper, Williamson, Stout, Agnew, McLeod (Wilkinson 55), Cooper, Taylor, Bissett (Witheat 76), Ryland (Lukeman 62). Subs not used: Walker, Baker, Gardiner.
Goals: McLeod (23), Neary (43), Taylor (61, 81).