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’ FA Youth Cup first round tie against Morecambe has been confirmed for Wednesday, October 30 (7pm kick-off).
The match will take place at Mariners Park with admission prices set at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.
The young Mariners have enjoyed a tremendous season in the competition so far, beating Gateshead, Carlisle City, North Shields and Harrogate Town on their road to the first round.
One more win would see them equal their best-ever run in the FA Youth Cup, which was achieved last season when they reached the second round before losing at Lincoln City.
As a result of this fixture being arranged, the club’s trip to Scarborough Athletic in the National League Under-19 Alliance – which had been due to be held on the same day – has been postponed.