By Philip Reay. Main picture: Alex McBeth.
The Professional Flooring Services-sponsored South Shields Under-15s earned three points in a hard fought game away to Hetton on a wet and windy North East morning.
The three points were vital to maintain the promotion push, but came at the cost of a bad injury to James Hogg.
The Shields performance from the start lacked the usual high intensity fast-flowing football; perhaps the body clock of a teenager takes longer to adjust with the loss of an hour’s sleep.
The first opportunity for the young Mariners came as the game approached the 10 minute mark. Liam Simpson McGill turned away from his marker on the left flank before delivering a cross that found Tom Birkett at the back post, but his shot was well saved by the Hetton keeper.
Shields began to dominate possession, but were unable to break through a strong Hetton back line.
On the quarter-hour, once again Simpson McGill caused problems for the Hetton defence as he raced down the left flank, and he picked out George Daglish with his pass. Daglish lashed a shot at goal that was blocked by the defence, and the ball fell to Birkett, but with the keeper beaten, his shot struck the angle of the bar and the danger was cleared.
Within a minute, Shields again went close as Simpson McGill opened up the Hetton defence before picking out Hogg, but his glancing header flew wide of the post.
On 20 minutes, a short corner move between Lewis Slater and Simpson McGill ended with a Hogg header that again went wide.
This was to be the end of the game for Hogg, as from the restart a bad foul ended with him being carried of the pitch and taken to hospital for treatment. He suffered ligament damage, and will be out for a minimum of four weeks.
The resulting free-kick was played by Josh Smith into the path of Simpson McGill, but his cross come shot was saved by the keeper.
Shields continued to press forward looking for an opening goal. and on 25 minutes only a fingertip save by the Hetton keeper prevented Birkett from opening the scoring.
Within a minute, Hetton had a chance to open the scoring, but a long range shot from Kyle McCullough was comfortably saved by Jack Ramage.
From Ramage’s clearance, the ball fell for Alex McBeth, who shrugged off two challenges before firing a 20 yard shot at goal that was comfortably saved.
The Shields pressure eventually bore fruit on the half-hour mark. A precise pass by Slater was collected by Birkett, who controlled the ball before calmly slotting it into the back of the net.
From the restart, Shields won the ball and again pressed forward. Simpson McGill and Slater combined on the left before Slater picked out McBeth, who fired a shot on the turn that was deflected beyond the post for a corner.
In the last action of the half, Edward “Jigsaw” Gilchrist picked the ball up deep inside his half, pulled off a tremendous trick to beat his opponent and went on a rampaging 40 yard run. He played the ball to McBeth and he in turn played the ball back to Gilchrist, but the exertions of powering forward obviously paid their toll as he went to pieces in the box and fired the ball well wide of the goal.
At the start of the second half, a defensive lapse allowed Hetton striker McCullough space to fire a 20 yard shot beyond the reach of Ramage to level the scores.
The setback spurred the home side on, and Shields had to weather a revival as Hetton began to grow in confidence, but the Mariners defence, anchored by Scott Rafferty and Ethan Henderson, held firm.
Shields again began to impose themselves on the game. Sam Urwin broke out of defence and released Birkett, who controlled the ball before firing a shot at goal that was deflected for a corner.
On the hour, Simpson McGill darted down the left flank before finding McBeth in space, and he rifled a shot at goal that was well saved by the Hetton keeper.
Hetton began to come back into the game, but they were restricted to attempts from distance, that when on target, were comfortably dealt with by Ramage in the Shields goal.
As the clock approached the 65 minute mark, Urwin picked the ball up on the right and some good close control saw him beat several defenders before being crowded out inside the box, and the ball was cleared.
Within a minute, Simpson McGill won the ball on the left and then played the ball to Smith. He in turn found McBeth, and he drove the ball fiercely beyond the reach of the keeper.
The Shields advantage was doubled a minute later. Again it was McBeth that proved to be the architect, as he collected the ball in the centre of the park before firing a shot at goal that the keeper was unable to prevent crossing the line.
Having gone two goals to the good, Shields took their foot off the pedal, and McCullough doubled his tally to reduce the deficit.
Shields held on in the closing minutes to claim all three points.