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.
Sam Hodgson struck a hat-trick as South Shields Academy continued their excellent week with an 8-1 win at Frickley Athletic in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Wednesday.
Shields’ youngsters defeated Halifax Town 4-0 in the League Cup on Monday and followed up that victory in superb style in Yorkshire.
Hodgson scored three while there were also braces for Josh Elcoate and Callum Guy, with Brad Allen completing the scoring.
Joint manager Lee Picton declared himself pleased with the display.
He said: “It wasn’t the greatest game of football ever, but we took our chances well.
“The lads are still getting used to a new formation and we were pleased with how they did.
“It was quite a physical match at times but the lads stood up to the challenge well.
“We had a really slow start in the league but the last couple of performances have been much more encouraging and hopefully we can continue like this.”
Hodgson also scored a hat-trick in the 6-2 FA Youth Cup victory against Macclesfield Town last month, and netted in the 4-2 defeat at Lincoln City in the second round of the competition.
Shields were also impressive on Monday as they saw off the challenge of Halifax in the League Cup.
Goals from Will Jenkins, Will McCamley, Michael Colquhoun and Bailey Judson sealed a deserved win at Silksworth Sports Complex.
In the league, the young Mariners have won seven points from their opening four matches, and are five points behind leaders Guiseley with a game in hand.
SSFC ACADEMY: Bramley, Morris, Allen, Carney, Errington, Bexton, Ames, Thompson, S Hodgson, Elcoate, Marcelino. Subs: E Hodgson, Croft, Lockey, Guy, Green.
South Shields Academy were beaten 1-0 at Monkseaton Football Academy on Wednesday as their 100% start to the ECFA Category One Premier League season was brought to an end.
The young Mariners were not at their best in the match at Seaton Delaval, and conceded an 89th-minute winner moments after missing a penalty of their own.
One major positive for Shields was the return of Joe Fell, who was brought on as a substitute for the final 30 minutes as he made his first appearance since last September after recovering from injury.
Joint manager Graham Fenton is certain the young team will improve.
He said: “It was a disappointing performance from our academy lads in the ECFA Premier League.
“We were expecting a much better performance, having watched the lads in training on a regular basis over the last few weeks and months.
“For some reason, it just didn’t materialise on the day.
“With having such a young squad, there’s lots of room for improvement, and these lads will definitely improve because of their hunger, desire and good mentality to their football.
“We missed a penalty in the 88th minute and conceded in the 89th.
“Even if we had scored the penalty and won, though, the conversation would have been the same.
“It wasn’t the result which was disappointing – it was the performance.”
Monkseaton’s side was managed by Shields first-team captain Jon Shaw.
Fenton is determined to take the positives out of the game.
He added: “There were some plus points.
“Josh Croft had a strong performance at left-back and helped his chances of being involved in the next FA Youth Cup squad.
“Joe Fell played his first 30 minutes of competitive football since last September.
“It’s great to have him back involved on matchdays.
“He has worked exceptionally hard to get back where he is at this stage, and we’re delighted to have one of our leaders in the group back involved on matchdays.”
SSFC Academy team: Armstrong, Morris, Croft, Elcoate, Wade, Errington, Minchella, Ridley, Green, Ames, Allen. Subs: E Hodgson, Fell, Black, Dunn, Jenkins.