An early goal beats Robins in home finale

IT took North Shields six league and cup games at the start of the season to chalk up their first victory at the Daren Persson Stadium, so perhaps a defeat in their last home outing of the campaign was not totally unexpected.

On Saturday they lost 1-0 to Chester-le-Street Town.

Despite the recent introduction of a new manager, Graham Fenton, after two encouraging displays on the road, the Robins could not contrive to overcome the home malaise that has dented their tag as promotion favourites.

Fenton said: “Of course it was a disappointing note on which to end for our home fans, but we do have a small squad and there were some tired legs out there.

“That declared, we had the chances to get something from the afternoon, never mind win the match.

“Already there have been positives since I took over, and against Chester, James Luccock did everything I asked of him in an unfamiliar right back role.

“Danny Patterson, as usual, provided the impetus from the left side whilst young midfielder Adam Forster was so unlucky not to record his first goal for the club when he rattled the crossbar.”

On Saturday Shields head to Thornaby for their final game of the season, kick-off 3pm.

They will be hoping to end on a high note, even if it means waiting until the 96th minute for the winner, as Scott Blandford did in dramatically heading home in the corresponding fixture back in December.

Even the Shieldsmen’s stunning awy form has withered lately, with their only five losses coming inside eight games prior to the rousing revival at Esh Winning.

On Saturday, Paul Dunn led the side out against a Chester-le-Street unit who have been on fire in recent weeks to rise from a lowly position to sit comfortably in mid-table.

In right back and skipper Luke Gilhespy they posessed the day’s outstanding performner.

He swept the board at the club’s last awards night and, arguably, is the best visiting defender to turn out at the Daren Persson Stadium in current times.

The decisive goal came with barely three minutes on the clock with the hosts caught cold as diminutive Luke Wilson headed in.

Out injured for the Robins were keeper Michael Robinson, James Harmison, Femi Akinbolu and Paul Watson, with Ryan Beal donning the gloves for the 11th time in league and cup outings.

Despite producing a man of the matc performance, Beal is yet to play in a winnig Shields side – an unwanted statistic, though, in five of those appearances the Robins have shared the points.

Ex-Hebburn centre half Scott Donaldson was off target with a free header for the visitors, then Beal brilliantly touched aside a scorching James Fairley free kick whilst a Luccock drive across the face of goal proved the closest to an equaliser in the first period.

After the break, Shields stepped up a gear, and when Andy Hay latched on to a stray back pass, only the out-stretched boot of Chester custodian Chris Rookes kept the ball out, rolling agonisingly behind.

Forster then unleashed an absolute beauty that beat Rookes all ends up only to clatter the woodwork, and Dean Holmes was disheartened not to tuck in the rebound and notch his 15th of the campaign to equal the tally of Keith Douglas with the golden boot at stake.

Beal kept his side in with a shout, twice thwarting Luke Proctor with distinguished saves, and whilst Shields substitute Adam Rowntree all but restored parity with a blistering drive that flashed inches wide, Chester centre forward Scott Swainston missed a sitter in the closing seconds after Jonny Evans struck the bar.

North Shields: Beal, Luccock, Patterson, Dunn, Hughes, Bowlt, Rasmussen (Baistow 77), Forster, Hay, Holmes, Wright (Rowntree 77). Subs not used: Grey, Douglas, Bowman.

The 2011-12 North Shields presentation evening will take place after the final game of the season on Saturday at the Terminus Social Club. All supporers are welcome to attend.