South Shields academy lifted their first national trophy after overcoming Basford United on penalties on a dramatic night in Walsall on Wednesday.
In the first of a double-header of national finals for the young Mariners, Shields deservedly took a 1-0 lead into half-time thanks to a sweet strike by Arron Thompson.
Basford gained a foothold in the second half, though, and two goals in four minutes from Kyeron Daws turned the game on its head and tested Shields’ character.
They responded in superb style, though, and almost immediately brought themselves back on level terms with a terrific finish by David Allasan into the top corner.
The match ultimately went to penalties, with Tom Bexton, Thompson, Olly Scott, Jake Dunn and Callum Guy all converting from the spot, while Jacob Bramley saved one spot-kick to deliver the young Mariners their first trophy: the National League Under-19 Alliance League Cup.
Shields started brightly at the Banks’s Stadium and almost took the lead early on when Scott fired a ball across the area which Allasan turned over after a fine run.
Max Cowburn saw two efforts saved before the Mariners took the lead in the 26th minute.
Thompson showed patience in the middle before playing in Allasan on the right of the box, and although goalkeeper Dennell Stokes kicked away his shot, Thompson rifled home the rebound from just inside the area.
Bramley made an impressive save from Niall Hylton before half-time but that was a rare opportunity for Basford, with Guy and Cowburn both going close at the other end.
The young Mariners went close to doubling their advantage 10 minutes into the second half when substitute Dom Minchella motored down the left and squeezed in a low cross for Guy, who was denied by the legs of Stokes.
Another opportunity came and went as a Ben Errington header from a Minchella free-kick was tipped onto the bar and the ball bounced back to him. Shields felt Errington was fouled in the aftermath, but the referee waved away the protests.
Basford equalised against the run of play in the 64th minute when Zak Goodson beat his man on the left of the box before hitting an effort against the post, and Daws was there to finish off the rebound.
Daws made it a quickfire double just four minutes later as a rebound from a free-kick fell to his feet and he rifled the ball home.
Shields’ response was instant and they almost levelled things up within a minute as Guy got in behind on the left and fired a ball into the area which Michael Colquhoun turned over.
They did not have to wait too much longer to make it 2-2, though, and the crucial goal arrived when Guy beat the defence with a terrific through ball and Allasan rifled it into the top corner from the right of the area.
Shields had a number of chances to win it before the 90 minutes were up, but Guy, Minchella and Scott were all frustrated as their efforts went just past the post.
The final therefore went to penalties, but the young Mariners ultimately held their nerve to make it a memorable night.
SSFC Academy: Bramley, Morris (Allen 59), Scott, Thompson, Errington, Bexton (c), Allasan, Carney (Dunn 82), Colquhoun (Marcelino 73), Guy, Cowburn (Minchella 53). Sub not used: Armstrong.
Goals: Thompson (26), Allasan (71).
An 89th minute winner by Sam Hodgson fired South Shields Academy into their second national final of the season as they brilliantly beat a strong Hartpury College side on Wednesday.
The young Mariners were up against some top talent in the ECFA National Play-Off semi-final in Gloucester but showed tremendous character to pull through.
Joint manager Lee Picton declared the win as “probably the best” the Academy has produced since its inception in the summer of 2017.
They will now compete in the final of the competition at Port Vale FC’s Vale Park on Thursday, May 9.
That will come a day after they take on Basford United in the final of the National League Under-19 Alliance League Cup at Walsall FC’s Banks’s Stadium.
Dom Minchella gave Shields the lead against Hartpury with a brilliant solo effort which went in off the post just before the 20-minute mark.
Hartpury hit back with an equaliser scored by England Schoolboys player King Baidoo on 68 minutes, but the young Mariners were not to be denied.
Hodgson netted the winner with a minute left to play as he finished off a counter-attack to spark jubilant scenes.
Picton and fellow joint manager Graham Fenton were left delighted by the performance of their players.
Picton said: “This was a game in which we had to play a completely different style to the one we usually employ.
“We knew we were up against a very strong outfit, and we decided to sit off and drop right in.
“We played counter-attacking football, which is something the lads aren’t used to, but they executed the gameplan brilliantly.
“Hartpury probably had something like 70% of the possession, and because we successfully frustrated them and hit them on the break, we had the best chances of the game.
“If we had been a little bit more clinical in front of goal, we could have won by a slightly bigger margin.
“The general character and determination shown by the lads was incredible.”
Picton added: “Hartpury had some unbelievable talent on show, but we didn’t give them the space to really hurt us.
“Defensively, we were absolutely outstanding.
“It was probably the best win our Academy has had since it started.
“We’re now into two national finals, which is absolutely fantastic.
“Unfortunately the finals are on consecutive days, which is going to give us a headache in terms of logistics.
“We’ve just got to try to put out two really strong teams and do our best to win them both.
“It’s going to be a fantastic experience for the players.”
SSFC Academy team against Hartpury College: Steavens, Yembe, Croft, Biwer, Patterson, Lockey, Minchella, S Black, S Hodgson, Scott, McCamley. Subs: Carney, Elcoate, Jenkins, Colquhoun.
South Shields’ Under-19s breathed new life into their hopes of winning their National League Under-19 Alliance division with a thumping win at Farsley Celtic on Wednesday.
The young Mariners breezed to a 6-0 victory at Throstle Nest, with Marcelino Junior scoring twice, and the other goals scored by Jake Dunn, Will McCamley, Michael Colquhoun and Bailey Judson.
Shields have won 11 of their 14 league games, and sit fourth in the table.
Leaders Guiseley were beaten 2-1 at Gateshead in midweek and lead the Mariners by 14 points, but Shields have four games in hand, and must play Guiseley again.