Under-18s bow out of FA Youth Cup at brilliant Fulham
An outstanding Fulham side ended South Shields’ record-breaking run in the FA Youth Cup at Motspur Park on Wednesday.
The young Mariners performed admirably to reach the third round of the competition for the first time, beating Gateshead, Carlisle United, North Shields, Harrogate Town, Morecambe and Hartlepool United along the way.
Under-18 Premier League leaders Fulham proved to be a step too far, though, as Shields were hit for 10 goals in the capital.
It was a harsh way for their involvement in the Youth Cup to end, particularly considering the brave performance they produced at Motspur Park, but in truth the Cottagers were too hot to handle as they lived up to their billing as one of the best Under-18s sides in the country.
The size of the defeat will have been a disappointment for the young Mariners, but they were far from disgraced against what was a slick, exciting and well-drilled outfit.
Shields had some bright moments in the early stages as they belied the five-division gap between the clubs, with Will Jenkins and Sam Hodgson linking up well at the top end of the pitch, as they have done throughout the season so far.
Fulham struck first from the penalty spot, though, with the prolific Jay Stansfield converting after 14 minutes.
They waited until just before the half-hour for a second as Jean-Pierre Tiehi slid in a low cross from the right and the same player made it three soon after with a similar goal which this time originated on the left.
The Cottagers were purring and by half-time they were six ahead as Stansfield, Sylvester Jasper and Oliver O’Neill smashed home.
Shields used the half-time interval as an opportunity to group and they were solid in the early stages of the second half.
Goalkeeper Aaron Steavens made two decent saves and the young Mariners were more difficult to break down, although Fulham still undoubtedly possessed the talent to unlock the door.
They had to be patient in their search for a seventh before it arrived in the 71st minute as Stansfield completed his hat-trick after he stroked home a rebound from 12 yards.
Substitute Mika Biereth got in on the act 11 minutes from the end by confidently slotting past Steavens, and the ninth goal arrived soon after as Jasper fired in.
At no point in the game – even the blitz of five goals in nine minutes in the first half – did Shields’ heads drop as they continued to represent the badge with honour and pride.
Even at 9-0 behind they continued to probe for a breakthrough and a moment to remember for positive reasons, and they got it on 83 minutes as Joao Gomes played in substitute Rob Ryland on the right of the box and he lifted it over the goalkeeper to get his side on the scoresheet.
Despite the scoreline, Jenkins produced a terrific performance and he almost got the goal he deserved with an impressive strike from distance which was tipped wide.
Unfortunately for Shields, it was Fulham who had the final say in the last minute of stoppage time as captain Fabio Carvalho netted his first of the night, but the outcome had long since been settled.
The result brought the young Mariners’ fine run in the competition to an end but the memories will live on and go down in history.
This is the first Shields team to ever reach the third round of the FA Youth Cup and the players and staff undoubtedly did the club proud.
They will not be remembered for this scoreline. They will be remembered for the outstanding achievement of reaching that stage.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Steavens, Wade, Croft, Ames (Williamson 83), Errington, Agnew, Morris (Ryland 62), S Black (Dunn 62), S Hodgson (c), Jenkins, Gomes. Subs not used: Stout, E Hodgson, Wilkinson, Taylor.
Goal: Ryland (83).