By Philip Reay
The Professional Flooring Services-sponsored South Shields Under-15s bounced back to winning ways with a comfortable league victory at Redby Blues at a cold and windswept Monkwearmouth Academy on Sunday.
The young Mariners attacked from the first whistle, pinning the hosts back in their own half.
The early pressure resulted in the award of a free-kick 25 yards from goal that was fired towards the bottom corner by Codie Howe, but he was denied by a good save at the post by the Redby goalkeeper.
A series of corners followed, but the Redby defence withstood the pressure to thwart the Shields forwards, whose only reward was a series of corners that were well defended by the hosts.
As the game approached the 10th minute, Lewis Slater played a ball through the Redby defence for Tom Birkett to run onto, but again a fine save by the Redby keeper maintained parity.
On the quarter-hour, Shields again went close to opening the scoring. Liam Andersen raced down the right flank before sending a cross towards Birkett, but once again the Redby keeper, with a fingertip save, denied the striker.
In a rare foray into the Shields half, Redby carved an opening, but Mariners goalkeeper Jack Ramage made a comfortable save from the No7.
Shields continued to pressurise the Redby defence, but some fine defending prevented them from capitalising from their possession.
As the game entered the 30th minute, Sam Urwin broke through the challenges of two Redby defenders before finding Alex McBeth on the edge of the box. McBeth took a touch to control the ball before curling a shot at goal, but again the Redby keeper was on hand to make a good save to prevent Shields from opening the scoring.
A minute later, the Mariners again went close. Slater fired a corner into the box that was played into the path of Birkett by Howe, but Birkett sent his shot just wide of the upright.
The Redby resolve was finally broken with five minutes of the half remaining. Howe and Liam Simpson-McGill combined on the left to create an opportunity for Howe, and from 25 yards he rifled a shot in off the post to give Shields the lead.
Shields quickly doubled their advantage when a flowing move involving McBeth and George Daglish released Josh Smith, and he rifled the ball past the keeper.
In the final minute of the first half, Slater fired a corner towards the back post and Howe headed in to take Shields into the half-time break three goals to the good.
Shields started the second half as they had finished the first, pressurising the Redby defence. Urwin crossed the ball into the box for James Hogg, but he sent it wide of the post.
Ten minutes into the half, a long ball over the Shields defence was collected by Redby’s No22, but having been a spectator for most of the game, Ramage was alert to the danger, saving superbly to maintain his clean sheet.
From the clearance, the ball fell to Slater on the edge of the Redby box, but his shot flew just over the bar.
The Redby defence was again proving to be stubborn as Shields continued to press forward without gaining the reward their play deserved as Slater, Birkett and McBeth all had shots well saved by the goalkeeper.
On the hour, the Shields pressure was again rewarded as Howe completed his hat-trick with a 25 yard drive.
The goal spurred the Mariners forward, but again they were thwarted by some good defensive play by Redby, as once again McBeth and Birkett saw shots blocked by defenders.
With 10 minutes remaining, Birkett spotted the goalkeeper off his line and fired a shot at goal from fully 35 yards to open his account for the club.
He very quickly doubled his tally. He collected the ball from Howe on the right of the box, and from a tight angle fired the ball across the goal and into the bottom corner to put Shields six goals to the good.
In the final attack of the game, good interplay between Howe and Birkett opened up the Redby defence, and McBeth gained reward for his persistence as he fired the ball into the bottom corner to complete the scoring to give Shields a deserved 7-0 victory.
As the rain started to fall, the final whistle saw a race to the warmth of the parked cars by both sets of supporters.