Under-15s beat Crook again

*Before this game, a minute’s silence was observed for the families and victims of the Bradford fire. The silence was also observed in respect of one of the club’s Under-16s players’ mothers, who died earlier in the week at the tragically young age of 40.*

By Philip Reay. Pictured: Scott Rafferty, team captain.

Crook Town Juniors Under-15s 0 South Shields FC Under-15s 2

The Professional Flooring Services-sponsored South Shields Under-15s travelled to table-topping Crook Town looking to complete a quick fire double that would considerably boost their title chance.

If Shakespeare was alive and writing today, then the “Scottish Play” would be an action-packed thriller and not a tragedy, with our own “Macs” playing the lead roles. There would still be some comedic/tragedy when the ball is in the air, however.

Shields started the game on the front foot, and inside the first two minutes won a corner on the left that was fired into the box by Lewis Slater towards the back post, where it was met by Aidan Hutchinson. Unfortunately, he was unable to direct his header on goal as the ball flew just wide of the upright.

From the clearance, Crook won a series of corners, but they were unable to trouble the Shields defence. From the final corner of this flurry, Codie Howe fired the ball into the Crook half where it was collected by Alex McBeth, who beat his marker before firing a shot at goal from the angle of the box that grazed the outside of the post.

Shields maintained the pressure on the Crook defence; Slater won the ball in the right corner of the park before firing a shot at goal that was tipped round the post by the keeper.

On 10 minutes, an Adam Genner corner for Crook was headed clear by Hutchinson; Crook continued to pressurise the Shields defence, and were awarded a free-kick on the angle of the box that was fired towards goal by Reece Turnbull, but taken well by goalkeeper Jack Ramage.

On 15 minutes, Shields broke the deadlock. A long ball out of defence found Scott Rafferty who in turn found McBeth, and he brushed aside the challenge of a Crook defender before calmly slotting the ball beyond the keeper to put Shields 1-0 up.

Shields then had to withstand a period of Crook pressure, as first Kyle Johnson and then Turnbull had shots saved by Ramage.

As the first half reached the midpoint, Hutchinson played the ball wide to Rafferty and he played the ball to Tom Birkett, who fired a shot inches wide of the upright.

Crook responded instantly as Johnson collected the ball from Turnbull, but as he raced towards goal, a superbly-timed tackle by Liam Simpson McGill halted the attack, and the danger was cleared.

A minute later, Simpson McGill was in action at the other end of the park as he outpaced the Crook defence before playing the ball into the path of Birkett, but his shot was well saved by the goalkeeper.

Shields continued to press forward. Howe won the ball in the centre of the park and played the ball wide to McBeth, who turned away from his marker before rifling a shot at goal that was well saved.

On the half hour, Crook were awarded a free-kick 20 yards from goal that was fired over the bar by Joe Bates.

With five minutes of the half remaining, Slater turned away from his marker before playing the ball into the path of McBeth, and he in turn found Rafferty, but his shot was well saved by the keeper. Helaunched the ball forward and it was collected by Johnson, but his shot flew wide of the post.

Shields continued to dominate the game, and on 37 minutes a flowing move started by Howe ended when Rafferty crossed the ball into the box. McBeth rose above the defence, and headed the ball inches wide of the upright.

McBeth has obviously been taking note of how the defenders have been heading the ball: such was his dad’s pride at the attempt, he stated that had the ball gone in he would have stumped up £100. If only, Alex. If only.

As an aside, as I in Wordsworth mode was wondering lonely as a cloud outside the confine of the 3G pitch, I mused on the £100 I had to stump up when coach Smiler scored his first goal back in the day.

Back to the action, and in the closing minutes of the half McBeth and Rafferty both had shots saved by the Crook keeper, and the young Mariners went into the break a goal to the good.

At the start of the second half, Crook pressed forward looking for a way back into the game and to resurrect their title aspirations.

Inside two minutes, they were awarded a free-kick on the left, and Genner fired a ball into the box that was headed clear by Edward Gilchrist, but only as far as Michael Hull on the edge of the box, but he was unable to trouble the keeper as he fired the ball over the bar.

Within a minute, Crook again went close as Bates raced down the right and rifled a shot at goal that was well saved by Ramage in the Shields goal.

Shields responded immediately as Howe drove through the heart of the Crook defence before releasing Birkett, but he fired the ball over the bar.

Again Crook pressed forward as they began to enjoy a period of pressure, but they were limited to long range attempts at goal that were comfortably dealt with by Ramage.

On the hour, McBeth went close to doubling his and the Shields tally. He combined with Slater on the left flank before firing a shot at goal that was well saved.

Again Crook responded, and they were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal that Harry Thompson fired marginally over the bar.

The second half was becoming a battle in the midfield, as neither side was able to dominate or create a clear scoring opportunity.

With 15 minutes remaining, George Daglish won the ball in the centre of the park and released McBeth on the left flank, who in turn found Slater in space, but his shot flew wide of the post.

A minute later, the Shields pressure bore fruit. Once again, McBeth was involved as he dropped the ball off to Birkett, and he made no mistake as he drove the ball beyond the reach of the keeper to double the Shields advantage.

Despite having a two-goal cushion, there was considerable anxiety among the Shields supporters as Crook continued to pressurise their defence, but the lads held firm, and with a 30 second by 30 second countdown, the game came to an end and a superb victory.

The lads all stepped up a notch from the victory on Tuesday to complete a double over a very good Crook side.

With five games remaining, the young Mariners need to maintain their focus as they make a final push towards the league title.

And for those like coach Smiler who are wondering, the Scottish play is McBeth.