The South Shields Academy returned from the festive break in blistering style as they thrashed Darlington 8-2 in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Wednesday.
The young Mariners notched their seventh victory from eight league games thanks to goals from Dan Lowther (4) (pictured), Karl Ross (2), Callum Guy and Michael Colquhoun.
In the process, they reached a half-century of league goals for the season – an average of more than six per game – and moved to within six points of leaders Guiseley, who dropped their first points of the campaign as they were held to a 3-3 draw by Halifax Town. Shields have two games in hand on Guiseley and a superior goal difference, but the sides are yet to meet in the league.
Shields held a two-goal lead at half-time thanks to goals from Lowther and Ross, but Vinny Steel pulled one back for Darlington a minute into the second half.
The Mariners then stormed ahead, with Lowther scoring his second on the hour mark before Ross made it four, Lowther completed his hat-trick and substitute Colquhoun also got in on the act.
Steel pulled another goal back for Darlo, but it proved to be in a losing cause.
Shields made sure of their victory in the closing stages as Lowther scored again and substitute Guy sent a free-kick sailing into the top corner to complete a fine afternoon’s work.
The result delighted joint manager Lee Picton, though he feels there is still more to come from the young side.
He said: “Darlington sat in very deep and tried to catch us on the break, as many teams do to us at first-team level.
“We brought Callum Guy and Dan McGuire on at half-time, and Michael Colquhoun came on after 55 minutes.
“We played some really attractive football in the second half particularly, and scored some very good goals.
“I wasn’t as pleased with us out of possession, as we weren’t quite as organised or efficient without the ball as I would like, but there were some really pleasing performances.
“Lads who are consistently doing well at academy level will get opportunities to not just train with the first-team, but also make some appearances in competitions such as the Integro Cup, or if we are ever short in the first-team squad.”
SSFC Academy team: Lister, Parker, Winstanley, Carney, Patterson, Onarbay, Kavanagh, Ross (c), Hassanin, Lowther, Minchella. Subs: Guy, McGuire, M Colquhoun.
Goals: Lowther (4), Ross (2), Guy, M Colquhoun.