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.
An inexperienced yet vibrant South Shields side put in-form Radcliffe to the sword as they ensured they would be top on Christmas Day with an impressive 3-0 win at Mariners Park.
Injuries and suspensions to a host of key players led to opportunities for several youngsters, all of whom grasped them with both hands.
Will Jenkins will take the headlines after he opened the scoring with a stunning lob from distance just after the half-hour mark but equally impressive displays from the likes of Ross Coombe, Kieran Charlton, Arron Thompson and Sam Hodgson caught the eye.
They were joined by a small collection of experienced players who performed admirably, with vice-captain Robert Briggs netting twice from the penalty spot to seal the home side’s win.
Radcliffe would have moved to within a point of Shields had they won and came to Mariners Park on a tremendous run of form.
They had an early opportunity to open the scoring when Anton Forrester fired a ball across from the left and Ben Wharton headed it over after having little time to react.
The Mariners gradually became more threatening and their first chance fell to Hodgson, whose effort from the edge of the area went over.
Briggs drilled wide from the edge of the box as Shields’ bright play continued, but they needed a superb stop from Coombe to stay on level terms in the 14th minute as he brilliantly tipped a Tyrese Sinclair free-kick onto the post.
Shields almost took the lead when Craig Baxter headed the ball across the box and Radcliffe goalkeeper Ollie Martin got a hand to it but sent it goalwards, where Tyrell Warren was forced to head off the line.
The game was brought to life in the 32nd minute when Jenkins opened the scoring in stunning fashion.
He concluded a move which involved three Shields academy players as Charlton linked up with Hodgson before sending a terrific pass into the feet of Jenkins, who glided forward before beating Martin with a tremendous lob from 25 yards out on the left flank.
The hosts had good momentum at that stage and almost doubled their advantage as Jenkins flicked the ball to Jason Gilchrist and he fired narrowly wide from the right of the area.
Shields’ performance after half-time was impressively mature as they controlled proceedings and were rewarded with two further goals.
The first came seven minutes into the second half as Gilchrist was tripped by Martin, who was shown a yellow card for bringing down the frontman. Rick Smith was also booked for his protestations.
Briggs made no mistake from the spot as he squeezed his penalty into Martin’s left-hand corner, despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to his effort.
Blocks by Phil Turnbull and Dillon Morse kept Shields two goals ahead before they were given a golden opportunity for a third when Smith handled a Gilchrist shot and was shown a second yellow card as Radcliffe were reduced to 10 men.
Briggs picked out the same corner of the net to double his tally for the afternoon and all but seal the Mariners’ victory.
Hodgson went close to getting in on the act 15 minutes before the end when he fired not far wide from the right of the box, while at the other end Coombe saved well from Javid Swaby-Neavin and Wharton.
It was an impressive and important victory for Shields as they maintained their place at the top of the table heading into Christmas.
They are back in action on Boxing Day when they travel to Whitby Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Coombe, Baxter, Charlton, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull (Alli 77), Thompson (Thurston 42), Briggs, Gilchrist (Guy 71), Jenkins, Hodgson. Subs not used: Errington, Wokoma.
Goals: Jenkins (32), Briggs (pens 52 and 70).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Teenage debutant Will Jenkins was among the scorers as South Shields progressed to the second round of the Durham Challenge Cup with a 2-0 win at Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on Wednesday.
The 17-year-old netted the Mariners’ second goal after Lee Mason had given them the lead early in the second half.
Jenkins was one of three Academy talents who made their debut at Kingsley Park, with Sam Hodgson and Mathew Wade making their senior bows as substitutes.
They helped see Shields through to the second round of a competition they last won in 2017.
Full report to follow.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Coombe, Baxter (Wade 79), Charlton, Turnbull, Morse (Brown 56), Wokoma, Thurston, Briggs (c), Mason (Hodgson 56), Jenkins, Odelusi. Subs not used: Boney, Gilchrist.
Goals: Mason (51), Jenkins (63).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.