South Shields’ Academy players have enjoyed another largely positive week – with the highlight coming as they progressed in the ECFA League play-offs.
The young Mariners kicked off the week with a trip to Scarborough Athletic in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Monday.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game at Flamingo Land Stadium, but there was late disappointment for Shields as they fell to a 4-3 defeat.
Jon Shaw and Wess Brown took a team mainly made up of first-year Academy players to North Yorkshire and they had a slow start to the game, when it became evident it would be an open affair.
Scarborough struck the first goal of the afternoon but Shields battled back well, with strikes from Rob Ryland and Geoff Hearn putting them into a winning position.
The aim at the start of the second half for the Mariners was to continue where they left off at the end of the first 45 minutes, but they conceded an equaliser and a controversial penalty was then awarded against them when Lewis Black was adjudged to have handled in the box. Ethan Hodgson saved the spot-kick but was then ruled to have stepped off his line, resulting in a retake, when a different penalty taker converted to put Scarborough 3-2 in front.
Shields continued to dominate possession and equalised with five minutes remaining as Josh Elcoate notched a penalty before they pressed for a winner.
They looked set to find it when Jack Wilkinson was played in on goal but an apparent foul on the forward went unpunished and the Seadogs counter-attacked before scoring what proved to be the winner from a corner.
Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw said: “Although the result was disappointing, it wasn’t the be all and end all.
“There were a lot of real positives in the way the lads played, but they need to understand how to manage games and be a bit more ruthless when they have so much possession.
“The lads were unfortunate on the day.”
The Academy returned to action with two matches on Wednesday, which included a trip to Barnsley in the first play-off round of the ECFA League.
The young Mariners knew they were in for a difficult afternoon against a team which had won their league and they started slowly, whereas Barnsley looked sharp and dangerous, and caused Shields problems in the early stages.
Shields started to get to grips with the game and although they fell behind, they levelled things up before half-time when Will Jenkins brilliantly found Oscar Taylor and he made it 1-1.
The Mariners’ second half performance was much-improved and there were a number of impressive performances. Jamie Whitehead gave them the lead when he won and converted a penalty, and the victory was secured when Taylor notched his second in the closing stages to seal a 3-1 win.
In the National League Under-19 Youth Alliance, meanwhile, another youthful side impressively defeated Harrogate Town 5-2.
A difficult game was expected against a Harrogate side which won the reverse fixture 3-0.
First-team joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton took charge of the team for the match and they oversaw a hugely positive performance.
A hat-trick from Hearn was added to by goals from Wilkinson and Joao Gomes as the three points were secured.
Joao Gomes struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner as South Shields deservedly booked their place in the second round of the FA Youth Cup at Mariners Park on Wednesday.
Urged on by a vocal home support, the young Mariners produced one of their most gutsy displays to date as they came from a goal behind against a physically strong Morecambe side.
The Shrimps had taken the lead in just the 13th minute but Shields’ first half performance was good and they will have been frustrated to go in at half-time a goal behind.
They stuck to their principles after the break and got their reward, with Ben Errington heading them level before Gomes struck the decisive blow in the third minute of added time as Shields got their reward for a sustained period of pressure.
A home tie against Accrington Stanley or Hartlepool United awaits them in the second round.
The early stages against Morecambe were fairly even before the visitors opened the scoring in the 13th minute.
Amilcar Codjoui Djau pounced on a loose ball in the middle before drilling an impressive effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards as the Shrimps showed a clinical edge.
Shields’ response was instant and they almost equalised on the quarter-hour mark as Will Morris got in behind on the right before squaring for Gomes, who was denied by goalkeeper Andre Mendes.
The home side created their best chance of the first half with five minutes left of it as they worked the ball forward well before Will Jenkins’ strike was blocked by a defender.
The young Mariners continued to persevere after half-time but were handed another test of their character when Morris converted a rebound after a Sam Hodgson effort was saved, and their celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
The equaliser felt like it was coming, though, and it arrived on 65 minutes as Stephen Black curled in a terrific corner from the left and Errington met it with an equally impressive header into the bottom corner to restore parity.
Shields sensed blood and attacked at every opportunity, with Black firing over from the edge of the box before later teasing in another superb delivery from the left which just evaded the head of Errington.
Morecambe rarely threatened the Mariners’ goal in the second half but had a decent five-minute spell around the 80 minute mark in which they could have scored twice.
Freddie Price collected the ball high up the pitch and arrowed a powerful effort just wide before a 25 yard free-kick from the same player dropped narrowly past Ethan Hodgson’s post.
The young Mariners again got back on top, though, as they tried to grind down their visitors in the closing stages and avoid extra-time.
Jenkins fired over from distance as they started to turn the screw and when five minutes of added time were indicated, Shields seized the initiative.
Hodgson played in Rob Ryland down the right of the area and his effort was blocked before the ball broke to Jenkins just outside the area.
He drove into the box and although a defender was tugging at his shirt, he stayed on his feet and dribbled left before picking out Gomes in the six-yard box, where he finished the chance to spark pandemonium.
Shields held on in what became an extended added period as they deservedly made it through on what was an outstanding night at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: E Hodgson, L Black (Agnew 46), Croft, Ames (Dunn 63), Wade, Errington, Morris (Ryland 82), S Black, Hodgson (c), Jenkins, Gomes. Subs not used: Steavens, Williamson, Spraggon, Taylor.
Goals: Errington (65), Gomes (90+3).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
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.