South Shields' youngsters seal historic win in FA Youth Cup and their reward is Fulham away in the next round
South Shields sealed their place in the third round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in the club’s history as they saw off Hartlepool United in another captivating tie at Mariners Park on Friday.
The young Mariners will travel to Fulham in round three after a display full of spirit and endeavour helped them defeat their North East neighbours 3-2.
Sam Hodgson gave them an 18th minute lead with a typically cool finish and Shields reacted well to conceding an equaliser later in the first half, with Hodgson rattling in a penalty to restore the advantage less than two minutes after the restart.
Prolific defender Ben Errington headed in a third with eight minutes left but there was still to be a nervy ending, which was brought about by a stunning strike from distance by Hartlepool’s Jack Leonard.
Shields were not to be denied, though, and saw out the remaining minutes to spark joyous celebrations as the Under-18s’ hugely impressive run in the competition continued.
In a frantic opening to the game, both sides had opportunities to open the scoring although it was Pools who went closest to doing so.
Mathew Wade produced a vital last-ditch tackle to prevent one goal before Aaron Willoughby curled a shot wide from the edge of the box and Shields goalkeeper Ethan Hodgson made an important interception to deny Jack Leonard what looked like a tap-in.
Shields grew into proceedings and fired their first warning as Will Morris delivered a cross from the right which was met by Joao Gomes and saved by Bradley Young in the Pools goal.
The young Mariners almost took the lead in the 13th minute when Morris shifted the ball onto his left foot just outside the area and fired an effort which took a deflection and was brilliantly tipped over by Young.
The home side did make the breakthrough five minutes later after a sweeping move which was concluded as Will Jenkins slipped the ball through to Hodgson, who took a touch before stroking a shot past Young and into the corner.
Hartlepool reacted well to going a goal behind and began to pressurise the Shields goal, with Dom Agnew forced into making an important clearance from a corner soon after.
Joe Grey then had a good chance to draw the visitors level as he connected with a floated cross from the right, but his shot from a promising position comfortably cleared the crossbar.
Shields could have extended their advantage on the half-hour as Stephen Black played a pass inside from the left to Jenkins on the edge of the box and he met it first time, only for his effort to take a deflection before kissing the outside of the post.
Pools countered from that corner and got back on level terms as Grey made up for his earlier miss with a terrific strike from 25 yards which went in via the post.
Less than a minute later, the young Mariners had a golden opportunity to retake the lead as Gomes tricked his way into a great position before being tripped in the box.
A penalty was awarded and up stepped Hodgson to thump it into the top corner for his second goal of the night.
Hartlepool had the better of the remainder of the half and looked certain to level when a loose Ethan Hodgson clearance presented a big chance to Grey, but the goalkeeper recovered superbly to deny the frontman and maintain his side’s advantage.
Hodgson made another important save seven minutes before half-time as he tipped a piledriver from Harrison Webster wide, and in stoppage time a header from Jay Gibson went onto the roof of the net.
It had been an action-packed 45 minutes and that theme continued after the break.
Hodgson saved brilliantly from Leonard within four minutes of the restart and at the other end, an equally impressive stop from Young denied Morris after he let fly from the right of the box. Josh Croft headed not far over from the resulting corner.
Hodgson produced another strong save from Leonard and then Grey to keep Shields’ noses in front, and their efforts were almost rewarded in the 72nd minute when Errington’s header from a Jenkins free-kick hit the top of the bar.
Pools thought they had levelled from a corner with 11 minutes left, but Hodgson this time produced a tremendous double save from point-blank range to deny them.
Shields got the breathing space they had been craving with eight minutes left as Errington forced in a corner from Jenkins but the tie was far from over.
Pools hit back three minutes from the end with a tremendous strike from distance on the right from Leonard which arrowed into the top corner.
They were unable to create an opportunity to equalise, though, as Shields saw the rest of the game out effectively.
The young Mariners can now look forward to an exciting trip to Fulham in the third round.
SOUTH SHIELDS: E Hodgson, Wade, Croft, Ames, Errington, Agnew, Morris, S Black (Dunn 62), S Hodgson, Jenkins (Taylor 87), Gomes (Ryland 81). Subs not used: L Black, Steavens, Spraggon, Wilkinson.
Goals: S Hodgson (18, 32 pen), Errington (82).