Bainbridge on the spot as North Shields dig dep for three points

North Shields striker Gareth Bainbridge. Picture by Ally Middleton
North Shields striker Gareth Bainbridge. Picture by Ally Middleton

North Shields continued to show their worth at the top of the Northern League table after edging out a strong Bishop Auckland side at the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday.

Gareth Bainbridge’s penalty on the brink of half-time was the difference as in the second half the Robins had to dig deep to secure all three points.

A tense finish almost saw Bishop Auckland snatch a late point, though the hosts threw their bodies in front of everything to maintain their unbeaten home record.

With South Shields in FA Vase action, the Robins looked to get on the front-foot early to open up an 11-point gap on second place.

A surging run by Adam Forster on eight minutes was, on two occasions, close to granting the home side the opener.

Forster found Bainbridge in the area as Alex Francis was made to block before his clearance forced Scott Pocklington into saving strongly from Dean Holmes’ effort.

Moments later, Bishops did strike back with an excellent opportunity. Curtis Coppen’s weak back-pass towards Kevin Hughes was latched onto by James Fairly, though the Bishops forward disappointingly failed to test Kyle Hayes.

In the 18th minute, Coppen somewhat redeemed himself for his early error to place himself in the right place to stop Ryu Williams from tapping in at the back post following a clever flick from Andrew Johnston in the build-up.

Just as the half hour mark struck, Bainbridge squandered Shields’ best opportunity up to that stage. The striker controlled well from Coppen’s long pass and Bainbridge opened up to lob his shot over the on-rushing keeper, but he lifted it over the bar.

Ryan Carr, who replaced the injured Craig McFarlane early in the game, was close to departing himself after a lunge from Francis saw the attacker pick up a yellow card.

And the resulting free-kick forced a strong save from Pocklington to deny Michael McKeown’s low effort in the 34th minute.

With the game seemingly set to stay level at the interval, Ben Riding tripped Carr inside the area and Bainbridge tucked his spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner.

A draw at the break would have probably been a fair score line, but Bishops found themselves searching for an equaliser as captain Jeff Smith looked to drag his side back into it with an early shot at Hayes.

But the hosts could not capitalise on their early possession to create any clear cut opportunities as a tense second period took until the final 15 minutes for Bishops to really pile on the pressure.

The Robins did have chances in last quarter of an hour to kill the game off. A ball over the top was only cleared by Pocklington into the path of the Carr, but the substitute’s shot at an empty net was too soft and off-target.

Holmes then poked an effort agonisingly wide after Dan Wilson held off his man to play the ball into the path of the winger.

But with no cushion to their lead, Bishops began to throw bodies into the Shields penalty area, leaving the league leaders having to hold their nerve.

First Hayes’ weak punch away from a corner required Jack Donnison to bravely head clear the danger that was surrounding his goal.

And then in the final action, Shields were relieved to see Michael Hoganson’s header fall into the hands of Hayes before the referee blew for full-time to the visible delight of Shields players, management and supporters.

North Shields are away to Ashington on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.