South Shields’ Academy side started life in the National League Under-19 Alliance in convincing fashion as they hit Rochdale for nine at Mariners Park on Wednesday.
The newly-formed team – led by Graham Fenton and Lee Picton – were hugely impressive throughout, and played some superb football in their first competitive outing.
Doubles from Joe Hassanin, Dan Lowther, Will McCamley and Bradley Allen, and one from substitute Michael Colquhoun, saw Shields take the three points in front of a decent crowd.
In truth, they could have won by many more, with Rochdale unable to cope with the Mariners going forward.
Lowther – who played several times as a substitute for the Shields first-team during pre-season – was the first to go close as he had an effort deflected over within the first three minutes.
A number of other chances came and went for the home side, but Rochdale did possess a threat on the counter in the early stages, and Shields goalkeeper Dan Lister did well to make saves from Maison Dinsdale and Yousou Ndiaye.
The Mariners then ramped up the pressure, with visiting goalkeeper Lewis Maher making fine stops with his foot to deny McCamley – who had been found by an excellent pass from Callum Guy – and Dan McGuire.
The breakthrough had been coming, and it arrived in the 21st minute as brilliant interplay between Guy and Lowther led to a pass from the latter which beat the Rochdale defence, and Hassanin finished coolly into the top corner.
It was then one-way traffic as Guy, Hassanin and Lowther all went close before the second goal was scored by McCamley, who controlled a delivery by Jordan Pattison before finishing low, via the post.
Within a minute, it was 3-0 as a brilliant effort from Guy came back off the crossbar to Lowther, who found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The confidence was now flowing through the Shields team as they continued to put Rochdale to the sword.
A third goal in four minutes arrived when more good build-up play involving McCamley, Guy and McGuire led to a thumping shot into the top corner by Lowther, who gave Maher no chance.
The Mariners made it five before half-time when Hassanin linked up well with Guy and then showed good footwork in the penalty area before his shot found a way in.
Just three minutes after being brought on at half-time, Colquhoun added a sixth for Shields as Bailey Judson’s effort was cleared off the line and he smashed home the rebound.
Colquhoun, Callum Carney and Judson all went close to being the next player on the scoresheet before McCamley added his second with a superb individual goal, beating a number of opponents before firing into the bottom corner.
Luke Ridley, McCamley, Allen and Colquhoun were the next to go close, and then Allen added the eighth with 12 minutes left when his corner held in the air and went straight in.
The scoring was completed as Allen netted his second with a terrific strike which went in off the bar.
Substitute Allen could have had a hat-trick in the closing stages, but his attempt from 20 yards went just wide of the post.
It was a stunning start to competitive action for the Mariners, who host Chester-le-Street Town in the FA Youth Cup next Wednesday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lister (Bramley 46), Ridley, Biwer, Lowther (c) (Carney 46), Pattison, R Colquhoun, McCamley, McGuire (Allen 56), Hassanin (M Colquhoun 46), Guy (Elcoate 56), Judson.
Goals: Hassanin (21, 39), McCamley (34, 64), Lowther (35, 38), M Colquhoun (48), Allen (78, 84).
Supporters will get the chance to watch potential South Shields first-team players of the future at Mariners Park on Wednesday.
The SSFC Academy team play their first competitive game when Rochdale visit in the National League Under-19 Alliance, with kick-off at 12.30pm. Entry is free.
The Academy squad, led by first-team joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, was put together over the summer, and the players have been put through their paces over a pre-season period.
Based on their location, the Mariners have been placed into Division J of the National League Under-19 Alliance, and will come up against Guiseley, Darlington, Halifax Town, FC United of Manchester, Farsley Celtic, Gateshead, Harrogate Town and Maltby Main, as well as Rochdale, this season.
Picton is hopeful Wednesday will be the start of a successful period for the Academy.
He said: “This game marks the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful journey for the SSFC Academy.
“It has been a long build-up to this point, and we’re massively excited about not just the game, but the way everything is progressing as far as the Academy is concerned.
“The lads have worked very hard during the Academy pre-season and it’s a fitting game to kick the season off for us against professional league opposition at Mariners Park.”
On what supporters should expect to see from the team – made up of players aged 16 to 19 – Picton added: “The ultimate aim is to prepare the players for first-team football here at South Shields.
“It makes sense for us to play with the same principles in and out of possession.
“We’re very pleased with the young and talented squad we have put together, considering the short lead-up time that we had from the Academy’s inception to where we are today.”
Although the match is played at a time many supporters will be at work, Picton is hoping that fans who can make it will be able to back the team with their attendance.
He said: “The Academy games are played during standard office hours, but if anyone in the area would like to see the potential players of the future for the first-team, we would really welcome their support at Mariners Park.
“The players themselves would really appreciate it too.
“We’re sure it’ll be a very interesting game on Wednesday as well.
“Rochdale are a League One side at first-team level, so their Academy players are classed as young professionals.
“Our players aren’t classed as that, so we expect a really tough and competitive game for our first fixture.
“However, we’ve got every expectation of the lads putting a strong performance in on Wednesday.”
The SSFC Academy was launched during the summer, with coaching provided by Picton and Fenton in conjunction with the Improtech Soccer Elite coaching company run by Mariners assistant manager Martin Scott.
There is also an education element to the programme, with all of the players studying A Level, BTEC and HND courses provided by Sunderland College.