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.
An outstanding Fulham side ended South Shields’ record-breaking run in the FA Youth Cup at Motspur Park on Wednesday.
The young Mariners performed admirably to reach the third round of the competition for the first time, beating Gateshead, Carlisle United, North Shields, Harrogate Town, Morecambe and Hartlepool United along the way.
Under-18 Premier League leaders Fulham proved to be a step too far, though, as Shields were hit for 10 goals in the capital.
It was a harsh way for their involvement in the Youth Cup to end, particularly considering the brave performance they produced at Motspur Park, but in truth the Cottagers were too hot to handle as they lived up to their billing as one of the best Under-18s sides in the country.
The size of the defeat will have been a disappointment for the young Mariners, but they were far from disgraced against what was a slick, exciting and well-drilled outfit.
Shields had some bright moments in the early stages as they belied the five-division gap between the clubs, with Will Jenkins and Sam Hodgson linking up well at the top end of the pitch, as they have done throughout the season so far.
Fulham struck first from the penalty spot, though, with the prolific Jay Stansfield converting after 14 minutes.
They waited until just before the half-hour for a second as Jean-Pierre Tiehi slid in a low cross from the right and the same player made it three soon after with a similar goal which this time originated on the left.
The Cottagers were purring and by half-time they were six ahead as Stansfield, Sylvester Jasper and Oliver O’Neill smashed home.
Shields used the half-time interval as an opportunity to group and they were solid in the early stages of the second half.
Goalkeeper Aaron Steavens made two decent saves and the young Mariners were more difficult to break down, although Fulham still undoubtedly possessed the talent to unlock the door.
They had to be patient in their search for a seventh before it arrived in the 71st minute as Stansfield completed his hat-trick after he stroked home a rebound from 12 yards.
Substitute Mika Biereth got in on the act 11 minutes from the end by confidently slotting past Steavens, and the ninth goal arrived soon after as Jasper fired in.
At no point in the game – even the blitz of five goals in nine minutes in the first half – did Shields’ heads drop as they continued to represent the badge with honour and pride.
Even at 9-0 behind they continued to probe for a breakthrough and a moment to remember for positive reasons, and they got it on 83 minutes as Joao Gomes played in substitute Rob Ryland on the right of the box and he lifted it over the goalkeeper to get his side on the scoresheet.
Despite the scoreline, Jenkins produced a terrific performance and he almost got the goal he deserved with an impressive strike from distance which was tipped wide.
Unfortunately for Shields, it was Fulham who had the final say in the last minute of stoppage time as captain Fabio Carvalho netted his first of the night, but the outcome had long since been settled.
The result brought the young Mariners’ fine run in the competition to an end but the memories will live on and go down in history.
This is the first Shields team to ever reach the third round of the FA Youth Cup and the players and staff undoubtedly did the club proud.
They will not be remembered for this scoreline. They will be remembered for the outstanding achievement of reaching that stage.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Steavens, Wade, Croft, Ames (Williamson 83), Errington, Agnew, Morris (Ryland 62), S Black (Dunn 62), S Hodgson (c), Jenkins, Gomes. Subs not used: Stout, E Hodgson, Wilkinson, Taylor.
Goal: Ryland (83).
Five different players were on the scoresheet as South Shields’ Academy side continued their impressive start to the season on Wednesday.
The young Mariners were 5-1 winners over Monkseaton High School at Temple Park as they continued their preparations for Mondays’ FA Youth Cup third qualifying round tie against Harrogate Town at Mariners Park.
Goals from Matty Williamson, Rob Ryland and Jake Dunn put Shields into a 3-0 lead and although Lewis Laidler pulled one back for Monkseaton, late strikes from Blair Rossiter and Jamie Prete sealed the Mariners’ win.
Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw was pleased with the performance.
He said: “After a really competitive start to the game we went 1-0 up before half-time, and after scoring our second and third we took control and put a good performance in against a good Monkseaton side.
“Big parts of the performance showed real signs of development and that the players are going in the right direction.
“It was a good win for us in the lead-up to the Youth Cup game.”
Shields have beaten Gateshead, Carlisle City and North Shields in their run to the third qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup.
Harrogate Town are now the only side standing in their way of a place in the main draw, with Monday’s match to kick-off at 7.30pm.
Admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, and support would be hugely appreciated.
SSFC Academy team vs Monkseaton High School: E Hodgson, Minchella, Errington, Agnew, L Black, Dunn, Williamson, Rossiter, Ryland, Green, S Hodgson. Subs: Steavens, Stout, Prete, Cooper, Whitehead.