A young South Shields team pulled off a superb 2-0 win at Cleethorpes Town on Thursday as they booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Integro Cup.
The Mariners fielded five academy players from the start in a rematch of last season’s FA Vase final, and brought one more on from the bench.
The teenagers played superbly as they helped Shields progress to the last eight, with goals from Carl Finnigan and academy midfielder Dan Lowther sealing the victory.
The deadlock was broken in the 14th minute when Cleethorpes goalkeeper Sam Vince was punished for picking up a backpass.
The free-kick from just eight yards out was touched to Finnigan, who rifled it low and through a sea of bodies as he scored his 20th goal of the season.
Both sides had half chances in the remainder of the first half, but the closest either came to adding to the scoring was when Daniel North got in behind on the left for the hosts, only to be denied by Shields goalkeeper Paul Woolston.
In stoppage time, Callum Guy did well to find Finnigan in a good position, but the striker had his effort deflected just past the post.
Cleethorpes had their best spell of the game in the early stages of the second half, but were unable to find a way past Newcastle United loanee Woolston.
In the 54th minute, he made arguably his most impressive save of the match as he kept out a powerful effort from distance by home captain Alex Flett with his fingertips.
Jonathan Oglesby also went close to the home side when he cut in from the left before curling a shot just wide.
Woolston was again on hand to brilliantly deny home substitute Marc Cooper as the hosts searched for an equaliser, and his 64th minute stop proved crucial.
Shields countered and the ball was played through the centre for Lowther, who made no mistake from 20 yards as he calmly slotted home.
Substitute Aksel Juul almost wrapped it up soon after, but his shot was kept out by Vince.
Cleethorpes showed good character in the closing stages as they tried to set up a grandstand finish, but they came up against a goalkeeper in superb form in Woolston.
After Luke Aldrich flashed a shot wide via a deflection for the home side, they went even closer when a piledriver from long range by Flett was brilliantly tipped over by Woolston.
He later made a double save from Aldrich and Jack Richardson as he continued to frustrate the hosts, and he played a key role in ensuring the Mariners kept a clean sheet.
They will travel to Workington Town in the quarter-final of the competition on Thursday, March 29.
Before that, they travel to Glossop North End for an Evo-Stik North Division fixture on Saturday.
The Mariners will be aiming to return to the top of the table.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Woolston, Kavanagh, Pattison, Ross, Patterson, Storey, Guy (Minchella 69), Lowther, Armstrong (Holmes 86), Finnigan (c) (Juul 52), Mason. Subs not used: Baxter, Lough.
Goals: Finnigan (14), Lowther (64).
The South Shields Academy returned from the festive break in blistering style as they thrashed Darlington 8-2 in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Wednesday.
The young Mariners notched their seventh victory from eight league games thanks to goals from Dan Lowther (4) (pictured), Karl Ross (2), Callum Guy and Michael Colquhoun.
In the process, they reached a half-century of league goals for the season – an average of more than six per game – and moved to within six points of leaders Guiseley, who dropped their first points of the campaign as they were held to a 3-3 draw by Halifax Town. Shields have two games in hand on Guiseley and a superior goal difference, but the sides are yet to meet in the league.
Shields held a two-goal lead at half-time thanks to goals from Lowther and Ross, but Vinny Steel pulled one back for Darlington a minute into the second half.
The Mariners then stormed ahead, with Lowther scoring his second on the hour mark before Ross made it four, Lowther completed his hat-trick and substitute Colquhoun also got in on the act.
Steel pulled another goal back for Darlo, but it proved to be in a losing cause.
Shields made sure of their victory in the closing stages as Lowther scored again and substitute Guy sent a free-kick sailing into the top corner to complete a fine afternoon’s work.
The result delighted joint manager Lee Picton, though he feels there is still more to come from the young side.
He said: “Darlington sat in very deep and tried to catch us on the break, as many teams do to us at first-team level.
“We brought Callum Guy and Dan McGuire on at half-time, and Michael Colquhoun came on after 55 minutes.
“We played some really attractive football in the second half particularly, and scored some very good goals.
“I wasn’t as pleased with us out of possession, as we weren’t quite as organised or efficient without the ball as I would like, but there were some really pleasing performances.
“Lads who are consistently doing well at academy level will get opportunities to not just train with the first-team, but also make some appearances in competitions such as the Integro Cup, or if we are ever short in the first-team squad.”
SSFC Academy team: Lister, Parker, Winstanley, Carney, Patterson, Onarbay, Kavanagh, Ross (c), Hassanin, Lowther, Minchella. Subs: Guy, McGuire, M Colquhoun.
Goals: Lowther (4), Ross (2), Guy, M Colquhoun.
South Shields Academy made it six wins from seven in the National League Under-19 Alliance with a superb 12-0 victory over Farsley Celtic on Wednesday.
The Mariners racked up eight goals in an impressive second half display as they stayed second in the league, five points behind leaders Guiseley, who have played a game more.
It was Shields’ first win since November 8, following draws against AFC Fylde in the League Cup – with the tie later lost on penalties – and Halifax in the league.
They had a comfortable afternoon against Farsley, racing into a 4-0 half-time lead with two goals from Kelvin Thear and one each from Michael Colquhoun and Bailey Judson.
Shields introduced players including Dom Minchella and Dan Lowther at half-time, and they helped to put Farsley to the sword.
Minchella scored five times and Lowther netted three as the Mariners made it 42 goals from seven league games this season, with just one conceded.
They are next scheduled to be in action next Wednesday as they travel to Rochdale, but will have to wait for what could prove to be two crucial fixtures against Guiseley.
Shields travel to the West Yorkshire club on January 24, with the return game due to take place on February 7.
SOUTH SHIELDS TEAM AGAINST FARSLEY CELTIC: Dan Lister, Matty Parker, Ethan Biwer, Nathan Convery, Jordan Patterson, Callum Carney, Kelvin Thear, Callum Guy, Michael Colquhoun, Karl Ross, Bailey Judson. Subs: Ryan Colquhoun, Josh Elcoate, Luke Ridley, Dan Lowther, Dom Minchella.
Goals: Minchella (5), Lowther (3), Thear (2), M Colquhoun, Judson.