Goalkeepers took centre stage as SSFC Academy secured a dramatic double win on a packed day of action on Wednesday.
The young Mariners thrashed Frickley Athletic 7-1 in the National League Under-19 Alliance to move up to third in the table, with goalkeeper Jacob Bramley among the goalscorers. There was also a hat-trick for Max Cowburn while Callum Guy netted twice and Tom Green scored the other.
The club’s academy squad was split in two for the afternoon, with the rest of the players taking on Ralph Thoresby School in the ECFA National play-offs.
Will McCamley gave Shields a 1-0 lead late in the match but the young Mariners were pegged back late on.
Extra-time yielded no further goals but Shields went on to win a dramatic penalty shoot-out, with goalkeeper Aaron Steavens shining as he made three saves from the spot to seal a 5-4 victory as he helped his side into the national quarter-finals.
Head of youth performance and development Jamie Williams said: “The first half was very scrappy, with not a great deal of chances for either side, and the second half was similar until Will McCamley scored after a fine through ball from Michael Colquhoun 12 minutes from the end.
“We tried to see the game out but gave away a free-kick with three minutes to go and they scored directly from it.
“They had the more clear-cut chances in extra-time but it went to penalties and Aaron pulled off some great saves to help us over the line.”
The young Mariners qualified for the ECFA National play-offs by finishing as runners-up to Monkseaton High School in their group.
They thought they had won the group after beating Tyne Met College a fortnight ago, having finished on the same number of points as Monkseaton at the top and with a better goal difference.
Both sides were initially unaware, though, that when teams in the ECFA League finish level on points, it is decided initially on head-to-head record, meaning Monkseaton pipped Shields to first place. Both sides qualified for the play-offs and both are now into the quarter-finals.
SSFC Academy team against Ralph Thoresby School: Steavens, Yembe, Lockey, Carney, Patterson, Onarbay, S Black, Dunn, Colquhoun, Duncan, McCamley. Subs: Croft, Scott.
Williams and Lee Picton took charge of the academy’s game at Ralph Thoresby, with Graham Fenton and Wess Brown overseeing the win over Frickley.
Cowburn and Guy scored five goals between them as Shields established a 5-0 lead, with Green making it six.
Frickley pulled one goal back before Shields were forced to push Bramley up-front after an injury to Arron Thompson, with no more outfield substitutes available.
Bramley delighted all those of a claret and blue persuasion by scoring – with Fenton declaring it was the ‘kind of moment you’re in football for’.
Fenton said: “It was a really strong performance from the lads.
“We generally moved the ball very well and scored some decent goals, while also missing some good opportunities as well.
“We need to work on our game management a bit, but that’s understandable when they’re at this age.
“We were looking for more goals at 5-0 up which was fine, but we didn’t keep the back door shut well enough.
“It should be a really good learning curve for the lads into how to see a game out properly in terms of controlling it.
“There were lots of good performances from the likes of Arron Thompson, Callum Guy, Michael Colquhoun and Tom Green, who made a really positive impact from the bench.
“To top it all off, Jacob Bramley scored the seventh goal and the lads were buzzing for him.
“It was one of those moments that you’re involved in football for.
“He scored with his first chance and could have scored another.
“The video analysis work we did earlier in the week clearly rubbed off on Jacob because he looked like Romelu Lukaku with his movement!”
SSFC Academy team against Frickley Athletic: Bramley, Morris, Allen, Thompson, Errington, Bexton, Junior, Biwer, Cowburn, Guy, Allasan. Subs: Armstrong, L Black, Green.