Lee Picton has hailed South Shields’ Under-19s performance in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Gateshead as the best by any Mariners team so far this season.
The young Mariners came from behind to claim a deserved victory at Silksworth Sports Complex as they continued their impressive form in the National League Under-19 Alliance.
Shields were extremely unfortunate to go in at half-time a goal behind after dominating possession and territory.
A defensive mistake resulted in a 1-0 deficit, but the Mariners pressed on again in the second half and eventually got their rewards.
A penalty from Will McCamley drew them level and Shields then took the lead for the first time after a well-worked move down the left and a fine cross by Josh Croft which Michael Colquhoun guided into the bottom corner with his head.
The three points were wrapped up with a solo effort by McCamley as he beat three players and chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Joint manager Picton was thrilled with the display of the young Mariners.
He said: “In my opinion, it was the best footballing performance by any team at the football club so far this season, including the first-team.
“We’ve recently given the players a lot of tactical information around trying to replicate the shape of the first-team.
“They have taken to it like ducks to water, really, particularly in possession, and are knocking the ball around with so much pace and quality.
“Opposition teams are finding it really difficult to get any sort of foothold in the game.”
Picton and fellow joint manager Graham Fenton are trying to mold their Academy starlets into first-team stars of the future.
Picton added: “Graham and I are absolutely delighted with the ongoing progress that a high number of academy players are making at the moment.
“It is obviously a big step from Under-19s to first-team football, but we feel that a number of players are starting to bridge that gap with the maturity of their performances.
“The only disappointing element of Wednesday’s game was that, without being disrespectful to Gateshead, we didn’t score more goals.
“We could, and perhaps should, have scored 10.”
Shields are fifth in Division I, eight points behind leaders Guiseley with two games in hand.
Picton said: “We’ve won 10 points from our first five games and everyone in the league has dropped points.
“We had a slow start in the league, but we’ve really started to pull ourselves round.
“The ethos within the academy is, first and foremost, to develop players.
“We’re not necessarily just focused on winning trophies.
“At the same time, though, we hope that the next step for these players is to represent the first-team, and so we have to develop a winning mentality and a level of maturity in their play which sees them making the right decisions at the right time in games.”
SSFC Academy: E Hodgson, Yembe, Croft, Carney, Patterson, Lockey, Guy, Scott, Allasan, McCamley, Cowburn. Subs: Errington, Elcoate, Black, Jenkins, Colquhoun.
Goals: McCamley (2), Colquhoun.