Gareth Bainbridge was back to his prolific best on Saturday as he bagged a brace in North Shields’ comfortable 3-1 win over Ashington.
The Robins’ FA Vase hero, along with strike partner Lee Mason, delighted the home fans with an assured display in front of goal, scoring either side of half-time after Peter Glen-Ravenhill’s early opener.
Although Damien Stevens grabbed a consolation for the Colliers, they never looked like competing with an in-form Shields outfit who extended their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.
Bainbridge’s contribution, his eighth goal in seven starts, rightfully earned him much of the plaudits, but Mason was equally impressive, and the pair linked up well to put Shields ahead on seven minutes.
A magnificent touch from the former played Mason in behind the defence, and the ex-Whitby man proceeded to ride a last-ditch challenge and round keeper Conor Grant. With the goal gaping, the number ten opted to square for Glen-Ravenhill, who tapped into an empty net to set Shields on their way.
Within ten minutes the home side were two goals to the good.
The danger seemed to be averted when Grant pushed away a shot from Bainbridge, but Jordan Summerly recovered possession at the byline and looped a cross towards the back post and the waiting Mason. Though the Colliers keeper recovered well to get hands to his header, the ball dropped into Bainbridge’s path and was tucked away with ease.
Ashington, without manager Steve Harmison in the dugout, rarely threatened to reduce arrears as Shields controlled the flow of the game. A Matthew Grieve free kick, driven down the throat of Sean McCafferty, constituting their only effort on target.
Meanwhile, Bainbridge almost turned provider for a third, A fine through ball sending Summerley in on goal, and the young winger had the beating of his marker but opted to look square instead of shooting himself, allowing Ashington’s Michael Dixon to poke the ball behind.
A lengthy break in play ensued when Marc Lancaster fell awkwardly towards the touchline, the left back suffering a dislocated shoulder in the process.
Summerly moved to his customary position within the defence, had to be alert to block a Lee Scott effort, and Stevens rifled high and wide, but the hosts took a comfortable lead into half-time.
The visitors made two changes in a bid to reclaim a foothold in the game, Scott Gunn and Kyle Downey introduced before the restart, but Shields were in cruise control by the 56th minute courtesy of Bainbridge’s second.
An assured claim and intelligent throw by Robins keeper McCafferty sent the reds on a rapid counter, Glen-Ravenhill scampering well into Ashington territory before feeding Mason. The forward moved down the right channel and provided the perfect cross for Bainbridge, who ghosted into the six-yard area to nod past Grant.
Substitute Ryan McGorrigan went close to making it four on the hour, rolling his man and sending a shot across the face of goal, before Ashington belatedly threatened themselves, a dangerous volley from substitute Gunn dipping wide of the near post.
Nevertheless, the Northumberland outfit found a way back into the match with 25 minutes left to play. Ben Harmison, only on the pitch a matter of minutes, expertly controlled a lofted ball into the area and fed Stevens, who slotted low into the far corner from a narrow angle.
The Ashington goalscorer almost made a game of it in the 75th minute, a first-time effort zipping inches over the crossbar, but it was the closest the away side would come thereafter as Shields ran out worthy winners.
Highlights of the game can be viewed at NSFCTV.
North Shields: McCafferty, Donnison, Lancaster (McGorrigan), McKeown, Coppen, Hughes, Glen-Ravenhill, Ormston, Bainbridge (Richardson), Mason (Wilson), Summerly.
Ashington: Grant, Taylor (Gunn), Christensen, Oliver, J Harmison, Grieve, Stevens, Dixon, Bulford, Scott (B Harmison), Johnson (Downey).