The South Shields Academy returned from the festive break in blistering style as they thrashed Darlington 8-2 in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Wednesday.
The young Mariners notched their seventh victory from eight league games thanks to goals from Dan Lowther (4) (pictured), Karl Ross (2), Callum Guy and Michael Colquhoun.
In the process, they reached a half-century of league goals for the season – an average of more than six per game – and moved to within six points of leaders Guiseley, who dropped their first points of the campaign as they were held to a 3-3 draw by Halifax Town. Shields have two games in hand on Guiseley and a superior goal difference, but the sides are yet to meet in the league.
Shields held a two-goal lead at half-time thanks to goals from Lowther and Ross, but Vinny Steel pulled one back for Darlington a minute into the second half.
The Mariners then stormed ahead, with Lowther scoring his second on the hour mark before Ross made it four, Lowther completed his hat-trick and substitute Colquhoun also got in on the act.
Steel pulled another goal back for Darlo, but it proved to be in a losing cause.
Shields made sure of their victory in the closing stages as Lowther scored again and substitute Guy sent a free-kick sailing into the top corner to complete a fine afternoon’s work.
The result delighted joint manager Lee Picton, though he feels there is still more to come from the young side.
He said: “Darlington sat in very deep and tried to catch us on the break, as many teams do to us at first-team level.
“We brought Callum Guy and Dan McGuire on at half-time, and Michael Colquhoun came on after 55 minutes.
“We played some really attractive football in the second half particularly, and scored some very good goals.
“I wasn’t as pleased with us out of possession, as we weren’t quite as organised or efficient without the ball as I would like, but there were some really pleasing performances.
“Lads who are consistently doing well at academy level will get opportunities to not just train with the first-team, but also make some appearances in competitions such as the Integro Cup, or if we are ever short in the first-team squad.”
SSFC Academy team: Lister, Parker, Winstanley, Carney, Patterson, Onarbay, Kavanagh, Ross (c), Hassanin, Lowther, Minchella. Subs: Guy, McGuire, M Colquhoun.
Goals: Lowther (4), Ross (2), Guy, M Colquhoun.
South Shields Academy continued their 100% start to life in the National League Under-19 Alliance with a 4-0 victory at FC United of Manchester on Wednesday.
The young Mariners scored four times in a superb second half display to beat an FC United team which had started the season with two wins out of three.
They had to show patience for the breakthrough, but the introduction of four substitutes in the second half made a difference as Shields got on top.
Michael Colquhoun maintained his excellent goalscoring form by breaking the deadlock on 63 minutes, and substitute Dan McGuire made it two.
Colquhoun netted again with eight minutes remaining to make the points safe, and another substitute, Karl Ross, wrapped it up in the 90th minute.
Joint manager Lee Picton was delighted with the response of the players in the second half.
He said: “The first half wasn’t brilliant from our perspective, when we looked like we felt the journey in our legs.
“We made four substitutions in the second half and all of those brought on really made a positive impact on the game.
“The reaction of the whole team in the second half was absolutely top class.
“They played some really good stuff, and we feel like we made some good progress in this game.”
Despite the comfortable win, the young Mariners were knocked off the top of the league by Guiseley, who have also won all of their games so far.
They defeated Harrogate Town 15-0 to move ahead of Shields by two goals on goal difference. Halifax Town are three points back, in third.
SSFC ACADEMY: Jacob Bramley, Matty Parker, Olly Scott, Ethan Biwer, Jordan Patterson, Nathan Convery, Will McCamley, Dan Lowther, Michael Colquhoun, Callum Guy, Bailey Judson. Subs: Karl Ross, Dan McGuire, Callum Carney, Josh Tait.
Goals: M Colquhoun (63, 82), McGuire (71), Ross (90).