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.
A South Shields FC academy player is set to continue his dream of becoming a professional footballer – thanks to the help of the Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust.
Josh Elcoate, 18, has been given a bursary by the Trust, which aims to support youngsters to achieve their dreams through sport and performance.
The bursary will allow Josh to extend his stay in the academy into a third year, while he will also be supported through the next stage of his coaching qualifications and will assist with SSFC Foundation’s school delivery programme.
Josh, a central midfielder, has made a huge impression during his two years at Mariners Park, both on and off the pitch.
He regularly coaches at the club’s holiday camps and has worked with one of the Mariners’ Under-13s teams.
He is excited about the prospect of continuing his development with Shields, both as a player and a coach.
Josh, who travels to South Shields every day from his home in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, said: “The bursary means I’ll be playing football alongside having a coaching role at the club next season, which I’m very excited about.
“I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and I’m really looking forward to it.
“My coaching has taken a massive role in my life and I’m enjoying a lot.
“It’s all funded through the Trust, and I really appreciate what they have done for me.
“It’s brilliant that money is going into young people achieving their dreams, and that’s what they’re allowing me to do.
“Hopefully I will be able to repay them by having a positive impact on other young people’s lives through the work I’ll be doing in schools and through coaching.”
Josh will work alongside coaches including SSFC Foundation programme delivery lead Nathan Kew in schools across South Tyneside during the 2019-20 season.
Steve Camm, Head of SSFC Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have Josh on board.
“He is a fantastic ambassador for the Foundation and the club.
“He has been brilliant in supporting the delivery of a number of holiday courses and worked with one of our Under-13 teams in the past.
“We are excited about the prospect of being able to work with him more. It’s great for the Foundation and our young players.
“As an academy player, Josh is a fantastic role model for our Foundation players.”
The Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust was set up following the tragic deaths of young South Shields couple Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry in a terrorist attack at Manchester Arena in May 2017.
The Trust has supported scores of youngsters since being founded, with the families of Chloe and Liam aiming to honour the teenagers through what they loved most and inspire others to follow their dreams.
It has assisted people with auditions, exams, travel expenses and more, and has helped a number of coaches at South Shields FC through their coaching qualifications.
Mr Camm added: “We are proud to be associated with the Together Forever Trust.
“It has previously invested in supporting a number of FA qualifications for our volunteer coaches for which we are grateful.
“This latest investment is a real opportunity for us, through Josh, to continue to make our small contribution to the very big legacy being created by the Trust for young people.”
Sam Hodgson struck a hat-trick as South Shields Academy continued their excellent week with an 8-1 win at Frickley Athletic in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Wednesday.
Shields’ youngsters defeated Halifax Town 4-0 in the League Cup on Monday and followed up that victory in superb style in Yorkshire.
Hodgson scored three while there were also braces for Josh Elcoate and Callum Guy, with Brad Allen completing the scoring.
Joint manager Lee Picton declared himself pleased with the display.
He said: “It wasn’t the greatest game of football ever, but we took our chances well.
“The lads are still getting used to a new formation and we were pleased with how they did.
“It was quite a physical match at times but the lads stood up to the challenge well.
“We had a really slow start in the league but the last couple of performances have been much more encouraging and hopefully we can continue like this.”
Hodgson also scored a hat-trick in the 6-2 FA Youth Cup victory against Macclesfield Town last month, and netted in the 4-2 defeat at Lincoln City in the second round of the competition.
Shields were also impressive on Monday as they saw off the challenge of Halifax in the League Cup.
Goals from Will Jenkins, Will McCamley, Michael Colquhoun and Bailey Judson sealed a deserved win at Silksworth Sports Complex.
In the league, the young Mariners have won seven points from their opening four matches, and are five points behind leaders Guiseley with a game in hand.
SSFC ACADEMY: Bramley, Morris, Allen, Carney, Errington, Bexton, Ames, Thompson, S Hodgson, Elcoate, Marcelino. Subs: E Hodgson, Croft, Lockey, Guy, Green.