Ben Clark praised his side’s character after Gateshead Academy under-18’s progressed to the FA Youth Cup second round qualifying at Spennymoor Town on Thursday night.
The hosts took the lead into half time following George Wilkinson’s effort, before a Connor Pani header forced a penalty shoot-out in front of a crowd of 322 at The Brewery Field.
A dramatic shoot-out, including a re-taken penalty from Heed substitute Cameron Tiplady, ended with Sam Wilson deciding affairs with a fine save to send Clark’s lads through.
“I thought over the whole game we probably just deserved it,” said Clark.
“The preparations weren’t ideal because we had a game yesterday and a lot of the lads played 90 minutes.
“At half time we told the lads they had 45 minutes left to turn it around, Connor [Pani] scored a great header and we had other chances but the character was the most pleasing aspect.
“In the second half I felt we were the team that were on the front foot for most of the half, their keeper has had a great game and Sam [Wilson] has made some great saves as well.
“It’s been a great advert for local football with two great teams trying to play in the right way.
“Going to penalties does mean it becomes a bit of a lottery, but I couldn’t be more proud of the lads.
“They showed everything that you need to play for the club. I work alongside Mike [Williamson], Louis [Storey], Ian [Watson] and Matty [Pattison] and the one thing that you have to do for the club is work hard.
“I couldn’t have asked anymore from them, they were brilliant.”
The drama of penalties was the ultimate test of the youngsters’ mettle, with a number of Spennymoor fans positioned behind the goal, and Clark was full of praise for the character of the players who stepped up to take a spot kick.
“It takes big character to take a penalty,” Clark added.
“There were quite a few fans behind the goal as well so it was a new experience for the lads.
“We had five minutes practicing at training the other day, but in training everyone wants to take one!
“All credit to the six lads that took a penalty and to Sam who will get all the headlines because he had a great game himself and made a fantastic save for the winning penalty.”
Thursday’s win sets up a second round qualifying tie away to Blyth Spartans during the week commencing Monday, September 27, and is one that Clark feels will be a great experience for the young lads.
“It’s a great game for the lads to experience, and a derby game against a well organised Blyth team.
“I know Michael Nelson really well, he’ll have his team well organised will have had us watched and we’ll do the same.
“It’s a fantastic game and a great opportunity for the lads to play in a local derby, and hopefully we’ll have the Gateshead fans behind us as well.”