South Shields qualified for the main draw in the FA Youth Cup for the second year running after an impressive 5-1 victory over Harrogate Town at Mariners Park on Monday.
Ben Errington and Sam Hodgson each netted twice, with Joao Gomes also on the scoresheet after firing a thunderbolt in the second half as the young Mariners booked their place in the first round.
Shields had beaten Gateshead, Carlisle City and North Shields in previous rounds and could now face a Football League club’s academy, as they did last season when they came up against Macclesfield Town and Lincoln City.
To reach round one they had to beat National League side Harrogate’s youngsters, and they did so comfortably in front of another good crowd at Mariners Park.
The margin of victory could have been greater for Jon Shaw and Wess Brown’s side, who were dominant in possession and created a hatful of chances.
They had an appeal for a penalty within the first minute when captain for the night Hodgson went down in the area, but the officials deemed no foul had been committed.
The visitors posed a threat in the early stages, with Adam Kellett seeing an effort deflected wide and Shields goalkeeper Ethan Hodgson doing well to stop a sharp shot from Gabe Hopkinson.
Once the Mariners hit their stride, though, there was no stopping them.
They opened the scoring in the 13th minute after a well-worked corner routine as Stephen Black played it short and exchanged passes with Hodgson before driving into the area and pulling the ball across goal for Errington to finish from close range.
Shields then pressurised the Harrogate defence relentlessly, with Will Jenkins whistling an effort over from 25 yards before Hodgson went close twice in a matter of minutes.
He went even closer to adding his name to the scoresheet in the 26th minute after Gomes produced some brilliant skill on the left before delivering a cross which was met first time by the striker, but his shot was palmed onto the post by visiting goalkeeper Jack Wade.
Wade also denied Jenkins but was beaten by Hodgson just before the half-hour mark, only for his curled effort to edge past the post after he was found by Black.
Hodgson continued to be frustrated by Wade as the goalkeeper made another impressive save before Shields eventually doubled their lead seven minutes before half-time.
The same two players combined as Black curled in a superb corner from the left and a towering header from Errington found the bottom corner as the defender celebrated his second goal of the night.
Gomes scored the pick of the bunch three minutes into the second half when he collected the ball 30 yards from goal before hammering a stunning effort in via the post to seemingly make the tie safe.
Hodgson finally got in on the act soon after as substitute Rob Ryland retrieved a loose ball on the right of the area before centering for the striker, who reacted well to divert the cross into the bottom corner and continue his run of scoring in every round.
He had another chance two minutes later but fired over, while at the other end Shields were determined to keep a clean sheet and were indebted to substitute Dom Agnew for keeping those hopes alive as he produced a fine tackle to deny Joe Payette.
The Mariners continued to relentlessly search for a fifth goal and went close twice as substitutes Jake Dunn and Ryland were narrowly off target with efforts.
Harrogate had a better spell in the final 10 minutes and after Josh Wicks crashed an effort against the post from the left of the area, they earned a reward for their endeavours as substitute Lewis Thornton headed in a corner from Malakai Mason.
Shields immediately went down the other end and restored their four-goal advantage, though, as Hodgson swivelled in the box before picking out the bottom corner.
There was still time for Ethan Hodgson to save well from Thornton at the other end before the final whistle blew and the young Mariners’ place in the first round was confirmed.
SOUTH SHIELDS: E Hodgson, L Black, Croft, Ames (Dunn 70), Wade, Errington (Agnew 54), Morris (Ryland 46), S Black, S Hodgson (c), Jenkins, Gomes. Subs not used: Steavens, Williamson, Taylor, Green.
Goals: Errington (13, 38), Gomes (48), Hodgson (55, 89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
A place in the first round of the FA Youth Cup is the prize at stake for South Shields and Harrogate Town on Monday, October 14.
The third qualifying round tie will take place at Mariners Park as the teams aim for a place in the main draw.
Shields are looking to get there for the second year in succession, having brilliantly made it all the way to the second round last season before being defeated by Lincoln City.
There is huge hunger for a similar or better run in this season’s competition, and the young Mariners are relishing their second opportunity of the campaign to play under the lights at Mariners Park.
A 3-2 win at local rivals Gateshead was followed by a 10-0 thrashing of Carlisle City and another derby victory as they saw off North Shields 3-1 at Mariners Park.
A crowd of 395 watched the young Mariners get the better of North Shields in the second qualifying round last week.
Kick-off on Monday at Mariners Park is at 7.30pm and admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.
Please come and cheer the lads on!
SSFC Academy recovered from last week’s agonising defeat to National League Under-19 Alliance leaders Guiseley as they hit Harrogate Town for six on Wednesday.
The young Mariners were left with much work to do in the title race when they fell to a late 2-1 loss against Guiseley at Wallsend Boys Club a week ago.
They needed a strong response against Harrogate at the CNG Stadium, and delivered just that.
Michael Colquhoun scored a hat-trick, Dom Minchella struck twice and Joe Ames was also on the scoresheet in a 6-1 win.
The result left Shields fourth in the table, 17 points behind leaders Guiseley with four games in hand.
Shields have five games in hand on the two sides directly above them, York City and Gateshead, who lead them by nine points and seven points respectively.
The young Mariners are away to Farsley Celtic next Wednesday.
SSFC Academy team to play Harrogate Town: Bramley, Black, Croft, Carney, Patterson, Errington, Minchella, Dunn, Colquhoun, Jenkins, Judson. Subs: Allen, Morris, Ames, Elcoate, Hodgson.