By Philip Reay
South Shields Under-15s 2-1 Crook Town Under-15s
Tuesday, April 21 at Eden Lane, Peterlee
South Shields: Ramage, Rafferty (c), Henderson, Hutchinson, Gilchrist, Simpson McGill, Smith, Urwin, Howe, Birkett, McBeth. Sub: Slater.
Crook Town Juniors: Snowdon, Genner, Hammons, Thouburn, Patterson, Lamb, Hull, Batey, Johnson, Martin, Graham. Subs: Watters, Welsh, Halliday, Stagring.
South Shields: Hutchinson, Howe. Crook Town Juniors: Lamb.
GOAL! A minute into stoppage time, Codie Howe puts Shields in front from the spot! pic.twitter.com/vVMwSvdumy
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) April 21, 2015
South Shields secured a vital three points with an injury time penalty winner against league leaders Crook Town at Eden Lane.
The opening exchanges were very nervy as both sides probed looking to exert influence in a game neither could afford to lose in the run-in to the end of the season, with the title at stake.
It was the visitors that created the first opportunity as Michael Hull burst clear of the Shields defence, but as he bore down on goal, a superbly timed tackle by Ethan Henderson halted his run, and Jack Ramage was able to clear the danger.
The visitors continued to pressurise the Shields defence, but were unable to create any clear opportunities.
As the game approached the quarter-hour, Tom Birkett broke down the right flank, but his progress was halted as he was brought down on the angle of the box.
The resulting free-kick was fired into the box by Josh Smith, but he failed to find a Shields player and the danger was cleared.
Shields were enjoying a period of possession, and minutes later were awarded another free-kick following a foul on Codie Howe. Howe picked himself up to fire the ball towards goal, but the keeper made a comfortable save.
At the midpoint of the first half, a long ball over the Shields defence was collected by Liam Snowdon, who cut in towards goal and rifled a shot at goal, but Aidan Hutchinson had raced across, and with a late lunge he blocked the shot before Liam Simpson McGill cleared the danger.
Within a minute, Simpson McGill was in action at the other end of the pitch. He raced down the flank, outpacing the Crook defence, before releasing Alex McBeth, who controlled the ball before driving it towards goal, only to be denied by a good save from the Crook keeper.
Again the visitors started to impose themselves on the game, and the Shields defence had to weather a period of pressure.
As the game approached the 30 minute mark, a Crook free-kick was fired towards the Shields goal, but Ramage was alert to the danger and made a comfortable save.
Crook pressed forward again. Hull slipped the ball to Kyle Johnson and he raced into the Shields box, but again the attack came to nothing as a superbly timed Scott Rafferty challenge disposed him, and the ball was cleared up field.
Shields responded as Howe picked the ball up in the centre circle and brushed off a series of challenges as he raced through the defence, before firing a shot at goal that was tipped round the post for a corner.
The Crook pressure was rewarded three minutes from the half-time break. Hull played the ball into the path of Jamie Lamb, and he made no mistake from 15 yards as the visitors went into the break a goal to the good.
Shields started the second half brightly, but a well-drilled Crook defence restricted the young Mariners to shots from distance as first Lewis Slater and then Howe fired wide.
On 50 minutes, Crook went close to doubling their advantage when a free-kick on the left was fired towards goal by Reece Turnbull, but he was denied by a superb fingertip save by Ramage in the Shields goal.
Shields responded within a minute and were awarded a free-kick on the left flank. Sam Urwin floated the ball towards the back post towards Howe, but McBethitis appears to be spreading through the team, and Howe’s header flew wide of the post.
Again Crook started to pressurise the Shields defence, but their only reward was a series of corners that were comfortably dealt with by the Shields defence.
On the hour, Crook broke through the Shields defence as Kyle Johnson charged towards goal, but a fine diving save by Ramage kept the score at 0-1.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Shields started to dominate possession and pressurise the Crook defence, but again they were restricted to long range shots that did not trouble the keeper.
On 70 minutes, Shields did manage to break through the defence as Hutchinson found Birkett on the right, and he fired a shot towards goal that was deflected for a corner.
With three minutes remaining, Slater fired a shot at goal that was tipped onto the bar by the keeper, and Hutchinson reacted quickest to head in from close range (obviously the defenders have a different heading coach) to restore parity.
With the game deep into added time and a draw looking the likely result, Hutchinson held off three Crook defenders in the opposition 18-yard box and coolly slid the ball into the path of Smith.
The Crook defence – who had been so disciplined throughout the game – lapsed for a moment as one their players brought him down, and the referee instantly pointed to the spot.
Howe placed the ball on the penalty spot, and as the keeper dove to his right, Howe calmly slotted the ball in the opposite corner to give Shields the victory.
FULL-TIME: South Shields Under-15s 2-1 Crook Town Under-15s pic.twitter.com/ysr5JRfrUQ
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) April 21, 2015
The club can now confirm its pre-season schedule for the forthcoming campaign.
Pre-season training will begin on Saturday, June 28, with seven friendlies scheduled to take place in July.
The first game is away at Billingham Synthonia on Saturday, July 5, with kick-off at 3pm.
The next is away at Ashington on Tuesday, July 15, with kick-off at 7pm.
The Mariners will travel to play Horden CW on Saturday, July 19, for a 3pm kick-off.
The next fixture is at Crook Town on Tuesday, July 22, for a 7.30pm kick-off.
On Saturday, July 26, Shields will take on West Auckland Town in a 3pm away fixture.
Two days later, the Mariners will play Spennymoor Town at Peterlee in a 7.30pm kick-off.
The final confirmed fixture is on Wednesday, July 30, when Shields will play Boldon CA away in the Sam Bartram Cup. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.