Under-15s move one step closer

Russell Foster Youth League Division Two

Plains Farm Under-15s 1-3 South Shields FC Under-15s

South Shields: Ramage, Rafferty (c) Henderson, Andersen, McGill, Smith, Daglish, Slater, Urwin, Howe, McBeth.

Sub: Birkett.

Goalscorers: Slater, Birkett, Smith.

By Philip Reay. Main image: Jack Ramage.

The Professional Flooring Services-sponsored South Shields Under-15 side took another step towards claiming the league title with a hard-fought victory over Plains Farm on Sunday.

The squad was boosted by the return of Liam Andersen, and it was also good to see James Hogg at the game. Unfortunately, while able to take part in the warm-up, he is not yet at full match fitness; hopefully he will be able to play a part in the final game of the season at Swalwell Swifts.

On a tight pitch, there was little space for the lads to play their usual expansive game.

The first opportunity came as the fifth minute approached. Sam Urwin fired a 25 yard shot that Reece Brigham tipped onto the bar, and from the rebound Josh Smith smashed the ball at goal, but it was blocked by the Plains Farm defence. Urwin reacted quickest to fire in another shot, only to be denied again by Brigham.

Shields continued to press forward as they pinned their opponents back in their own half, as they won a series of corners that were well defended by Plains Farm.

On seven minutes, the pressure bore fruit. Liam Simpson McGill raced down the left flank, leaving defenders in his wake before playing the ball into the feet of Urwin, and he in turn found Lewis Slater on the edge of the box. Slater drove the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

From the restart, Scott Rafferty drove out of defence, brushing aside several challenges before rifling a shot inches wide of the post.

Against the run of play, a defensive lapse allowed Plains Farm to restore parity. Thomas Fairweather crossed the ball into the box from the right flank for Jake Walton, and he headed in at the back post from close range.

Shields responded well to the setback, and within a minute Codie Howe collected the ball from George Daglish and rifled a 30 yard shot that flew agonisingly wide of the upright.

On the quarter-hour, Howe played the ball over the defence for Alex McBeth to run on to and he rifled a shot towards goal, only to be denied by a superb save by Reece Brigham.

Within a minute, McBeth again went close as he collected a ball from Smith before driving just wide of the post.

McBeth was causing problems for the home defence, but was unable to get the vital strike, and at the midpoint of the first half he again went close as he rounded off a flowing move involving Smith and Urwin, but his shot again flew wide of the post.

Shields continued to dominate play, but were finding it difficult to break through a packed Plains Farm defence, and when they did, they were denied by goalkeeper Bingham, or their efforts flew wide of the post.

A case in point on 25 minutes. Howe brushed aside several challenges in a tenacious run from the halfway line (cheers Stuart) which ended as he fired a 25 yard drive at goal that was well saved by Bingham.

Within a minute, Howe was again in action as he broke from midfield to release Tom Birkett, but again he was denied as Bingham parried his shot into the path of McBeth, but again his shot flew over the bar.

On the half hour, Simpson McGill outpaced the defence on the left before crossing to Birkett, but again Bingham was on hand to deny him.

The Shields pressure brought reward a minute later. Howe played the ball into the box, and Birkett was on hand to fire past Bingham to restore the Shields advantage.

From the restart, the young Mariners again pressed forward. Howe won the ball in the centre of the park and released Birkett on the left, who cut in towards goal and rifled a shot from the angle of the box that was well saved by Bingham.

In the last action of the half, Smith picked the ball up wide on the left and took a touch before unleashing a shot that curled beyond the reach of Bingham to take the young Mariners into the break with a two-goal advantage.

As the second half started, Shields were again frustrated as the Plains Farm defence held firm against a constant wave of attacks.

The half was almost 10 minutes old before there was a clear opportunity. McBeth collected the ball from Birkett, but his shot was tipped round the post for a corner.

That was to be Birkett’s last involvement in the game as he was bundled over and injured his shoulder. It is hoped that he will be fit to play against Hetton on Tuesday.

Having been a spectator for most of the game, Jack Ramage was called into action a minute later as he tipped a Walton shot round the post before punching the resulting corner clear.

The home side looked a little livelier in the second half and enjoyed a little more possession, but they were unable to convert the possession into goalscoring threats as the Shields side held firm.

On 55 minutes, Howe took a quick throw on the left to McBeth, and he fired a shot on the turn that flew just wide of the upright.

The half had no flow or pattern as the game became littered by a series of free-kicks. As the game approached the 65th minute, Urwin and Slater combined to open up the home defence to release Smith, but he fired his shot over the bar.

A minute later, Shields again went close as Smith turned provider as he threaded a ball through to Howe, but his long range shot flew over the bar.

The half lacked the intensity of the first as Shields played within themselves with the luxury of a two-goal cushion.

In the closing stages of the game, long range efforts from Howe, Slater and McBeth failed to trouble Bingham in the Plains Farm goal.

There are now only two games to play, and the lads are in pole position to take the title.

Off the field, it was also pleasing to see Stuart resplendent with new Nike umbrella. Should we have a nuclear attack, everyone should congregate round Stuart, as for the price he paid, the new brolly must not only provide protection from the rain, but will also withstand nuclear attack.