South Shields Academy kicked off their ECFA League campaign in emphatic fashion with a hugely impressive 9-0 win over Park View Academy on Wednesday.
A team made up of Under-17s players were dominant against a largely Under-18s side at Washington Football Hub.
Dan Lamb opened the scoring and Matty Telfer doubled Shields’ lead from the penalty spot before Sam Watts notched a brace to send the Mariners into the half-time break with a four-goal advantage.
A second penalty was converted by Dan Savage after the break and then Telfer added three more goals to take his tally for the afternoon to four, and Lewis Henry completed the scoring.
South Shields head of professional development Jon Shaw said: “As the scoreline would suggest, we were really pleased.
“Before the game, we made a point of telling the players that we understood they were a team of Under-17s in their first game against an Under-18s side from another successful programme, and that it would potentially be a tough match.
“Our main focus was on trying to put into practice what we had been doing in training, but they performed beyond our expectations and put on a real show.
“They showed a real maturity in carrying out everything we asked of them, and it’s a rare occasion for a coach not to have anything negative to say or areas to suggest improvements.
“The lads have set the bar very high, and now it’s about trying to better that next time.”
Wednesday was the Academy players’ second competitive match of the season, following the 8-0 win at Whitley Bay in the preliminary round of the FA Youth Cup in late-August.
They will also compete in the National League Under-19 Alliance and a newly-formed development league this season.
Shaw added: “It’s a bigger group than we’ve ever had at South Shields, and the Under-18s started excellently in the FA Youth Cup.
“The Under-17s are a large and exciting set of players, and those who played on Wednesday were the first 16 from that group to get an opportunity. They really impressed.
“We have another 20 lads waiting for a shirt and they’ll get a chance next week, because it won’t always be the same 16 players used.
“The first 16 did themselves no harm and have set a very high standard, but instead of reflecting on how well we’ve done so far, it’s about how we can improve even further moving forwards.”
The Under-18s are back in action on Friday when they travel to Billingham Town in the first qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup.
Shaw has full faith in the players heading into the tie.
He said: “The first round was a bit of an unknown against Whitley Bay, and the lads produced an excellent performance.
“We know that the challenge will get tougher with every passing round, but the Under-18s group have been pushing each other and themselves extremely hard for an opportunity to play.
“There will be a few different faces in the squad on Friday, and it’s another great chance for them to play in a competition the club has a good pedigree in, and give everything they’ve got.
“It’s a competition we really want to progress in and we’ve got full faith that the players will give it their all as we bid to make it through and get as far as we can in it.”