Pools’ FA Youth Cup run came to an end at the Second Round stage on Friday night as they were beaten 3-2 by South Shields in an entertaining encounter at Mariners’ Park.
Ian McGuckin’s men were hoping to progress and set-up a meeting with Fulham in Round Three but it will be Shields who make the trip to Craven Cottage after the ran out 3-1 winners on home soil.
The hosts made an aggressive start and attempted to take the game to Pools in the early stages but it almost cost them when McGuckin’s side sprung dangerously on the counter-attack and were only denied by a last-gasp sliding tackle.
Aaron Willoughby was first to try his luck when he was found by a raking cross-field pass from Jack Leonard but when the wide man cut inside from the left he could only hit a shot over the bar.
Brad Young then had to be alert at the other end when Joao Gomes let fly from twenty yards and his shot looped up off a defender before the Pools keeper stretched to tip it over the bar.
With 18 minutes on the clock, the home side went in front. Pools sat off as Shields came forward and that allowed them to slip a ball through for Sam Hodgson who made no mistake with a neat finish past the advancing Young to make it 1-0.
There was a great chance for Joe Grey to level just before the half-hour mark when Coleby Shepherd slung a wonderful ball in to the area from the right but front man Grey’s volley dropped on to the roof of the net.
Grey atoned for that miss moments later though when another clinical counter-attack saw the ball fed in to his feet on the left. He took a touch to steady himself before unleashing a curling, dipping effort which flew over the keeper and in off the post to level things up.
However, parity didn’t last long. Gomes stormed in to the box and had his run halted by a late tackle and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Hodgson did the rest with a vicious conversion in to the top left corner to give Young no chance and put Shields 2-1 up on 33 minutes.
Pools came again and could have been level almost instantly when Grey chased down the keeper and blocked his attempted clearance. The in-form front man was first to the loose ball but the Shields keeper recovered well to make a fine save down low to his left and protect the hosts’ lead.
Harrison Webster then wandered forward from full-back towards the edge of the box and let fly with a powerful drive which took a nick off a defender on its way in to the side-netting.
There was a big opportunity for Pools to score just before half-time when Webster got in to space on the left and lifted a cross to the back post but Jay Gibson nodded an effort over the bar.
Jack Leonard almost brought Pools level at the start of the second half when he picked the pocket of a defender but then his attempted chip was clawed away by the keeper.
Young was then tested immediately at the other end and had to make a strong save at his front post before the resultant corner was headed over the bar.
Gibson fired a volley just wide from the edge of the area and then Willoughby saw an effort saved by the keeper as Pools pressed their opponents back on the search for an equaliser.
The game began to get a little nervy towards the midway point of the second half but Shields could have increased their lead with a header at the far post which kissed the bar on its way over.
South Shields had their keeper to thank for being in front when Pools worked a lovely corner from the right and when it was lifted in to the box it was blocked away by the keeper who then held the follow-up header from substitute Luke Chapman on his line.
It proved a crucial moment because it was 3-1 on 83 minutes. A corner was swung in from the left and centre-back Ben Errington got there first to flick the ball on and in to the far corner of the net.
There was some hope for Pools two minutes from time when Leonard unleashed a thunderbolt in to the top corner of the net to cue a frenzied finale under the lights.
However, there wasn’t enough time to engineer another chance and it was the home side who clinched their place in Round Three and that trip to the capital.
Full Time: South Shields 3 Pools 1
Pools: Young, Wilson (Chapman 71), Thompson, Pilling (Sturdy 83), Webster, Campbell, Gibson, Willoughby, Shepherd, Leonard, Grey.
Subs not used: Lowerson, Naisbett, James.
Booked: Leonard (68).