South Shields’ Under-19s breathed new life into their hopes of winning their National League Under-19 Alliance division with a thumping win at Farsley Celtic on Wednesday.
The young Mariners breezed to a 6-0 victory at Throstle Nest, with Marcelino Junior scoring twice, and the other goals scored by Jake Dunn, Will McCamley, Michael Colquhoun and Bailey Judson.
Shields have won 11 of their 14 league games, and sit fourth in the table.
Leaders Guiseley were beaten 2-1 at Gateshead in midweek and lead the Mariners by 14 points, but Shields have four games in hand, and must play Guiseley again.
Dillon Morse created pandemonium at Mariners Park as his 93rd minute goal sealed a dramatic win for South Shields in the Top Two Showdown against Farsley Celtic.
Morse flicked home at the death to score the only goal of the game as Shields moved into an outright lead in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
They were made to work all the way by Farsley in front of a tremendous crowd of more than 2,000 at Mariners Park, but just did enough to keep their 100% home record in the league intact.
The first half was a nervy affair which Farsley arguably edged, although they were unable to seriously trouble Liam Connell in the Shields goal.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton opted to make no changes to the team which defeated Basford United 3-0 a week earlier, and it was Shields who had the first effort as Josh Gillies’ drive from the right of the box was palmed behind by visiting goalkeeper Kyle Trenerry.
The hosts then came under a period of pressure, with captain Jon Shaw blocking a shot by Luke Parkin before Connell got down well to tip a long-range effort from James Spencer wide.
There were numerous stoppages, with several Farsley players infuriating the home crowd with displays of gamesmanship, but Shields gradually got into their stride and had two decent opportunities to break the deadlock.
The first fell the way of the bright Lee Mason, whose strike from the edge of the box was deflected wide.
The resulting corner was over-hit by Gillies but retrieved by Shaw, who picked out Gary Brown on the left of the area. His effort hit the head of Morse, though, before bouncing over.
It was goalless at half-time but the tempo was raised immediately in the second half as both teams returned to the pitch with renewed purpose.
Morse blocked from Nathan Cartman as Farsley again showed their capabilities, while at the other end Craig Baxter fired wide after good interplay with Nathan Lowe.
Just before the hour mark came a dramatic minute which saw both defences breathe a sigh of relief.
Gillies was inches away from giving the Mariners the lead when his 20-yard effort cannoned against the foot of the post as he almost caught Trenerry out after being found by a sublime flick from Lowe.
The Villagers countered down the right and a ball into the box ricocheted to the left foot of Cartman, whose shot was destined to find the corner of the net before being brilliantly tipped wide by Connell.
It was one of the saves of the season and Connell was called into action again soon after, albeit his stop from Spencer was more routine.
Picton and Fenton responded by introducing Robert Briggs in place of Gary Brown, with Craig Baxter moved to right-back and Briggs slotting into midfield.
The game was much more open than it had been in the first half and with 15 minutes left, a header from Dave Syers was well saved by Connell.
Shields responded immediately and scampered up the other end. Baxter was played in on the right of the box but Trenerry was out quickly to close the angle and make a decent stop.
Trenerry made a similar save from Blair Adams after initially fumbling a low cross from the left, and as the match ticked into five minutes of stoppage time, it looked like the top two would not be separated.
That was until a moment that will live long in the memory of the majority of the 2,013 crowd.
Mason found Briggs and his sublime flicked pass played in Mason on the right of the box. He squared the ball for Morse and, although he initially struggled to get it under control, he had the presence of mind to backheel it over the line to send the home support into raptures.
It was Morse’s seventh goal of another memorable campaign and comfortably the most important.
There was still time for a final Farsley chance to take a point, but Connell denied Cartman and Shields survived.
It was another occasion at Mariners Park which will live long in the memory.
The Mariners are back in action on Tuesday when they travel to Sunderland RCA in the quarter-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Brown (Briggs 66), Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Baxter, Lowe, Mason (Lough 90+5), Gillies, Foley (Cogdon 77). Subs not used: Mouanda, Harmison.
Goal: Morse (90+3).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Mariners Park is to play host to a top two showdown on Saturday when South Shields and Farsley Celtic go head-to-head in a mouthwatering clash.
The two teams are locked on 53 points at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division table, having scored and conceded the same number of goals.
Shields will be out for revenge having been beaten 4-1 with nine men in the reverse fixture in August, and go into Saturday’s match in fine form, having won 10 and drawn two of their last 12 league games.
Joint manager Lee Picton has urged his players to relish the big occasion in front of what is expected to be a big crowd at Mariners Park.
He said: “We’ve got big players in our squad and big players live and breathe for games like this.
“I’m excited about it and I’m sure the lads are too.
“We’ve had a really good week of preparation and we’ve worked really hard behind the scenes to cover all bases and get ourselves in the best possible position to give the best version of ourselves on Saturday.
“If we do that, we’ve got a great chance.”
A bumper crowd is expected for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off, and Picton is confident that will spur his team on as they bid to continue their 100% home record in the league.
He added: “The Stockport County game in the FA Cup was big, but this is the biggest of the season so far, without a doubt.
“I’m sure the South Tyneside faithful will get behind the club and the team.
“We need to make sure that we give the big crowd some real energy on the pitch so they can get behind us and we can feed off each other.
“If we can do that and develop a real positive atmosphere for us as the home side, it will be a big plus for us.”
Shields won 3-0 at Basford United last Saturday to register their fifth consecutive win.
Another victory on Saturday would give them the outright lead in the championship race, with Picton keen for the Mariners to have their destiny in their own hands.
He said: “We’ve been trying to claw our way back from quite a big deficit over the last two or three months.
“We edged closer and closer and we knew that if certain results went our way last Saturday, it might be the first time we went top of the league.
“It happened that way, which was great, but what we said before the game was that we want to as quickly as possible get to a position where the league title is completely in our own hands.
“It’s still technically not in our own hands because Farsley have a game in hand on us, so this match is obviously a real big one.”
Shields go into the game without striker Carl Finnigan, who is still suffering with an ankle injury.
Barrie Smith and Anthony Callaghan continue to miss out with their long-term injuries.
Admission – which can be paid at the turnstiles – is £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.