Coppen double sees off champions

Curtis Coppen celebrates his winning goal against Chester-le-Street. Picture by Ally Middleton
Curtis Coppen celebrates his winning goal against Chester-le-Street. Picture by Ally Middleton

Curtis Coppen’s second-half double helped North Shields pass their toughest test of the season against the reigning Northern League champions.

Jon McDonald’s men produced the perfect team performance as the Robins’ defensive shape was tested for large parts of the game but never looked like being breached.

And in Michael McKeown, Shields had a set-piece specialist as the midfielder played a part in all three goals.

Ryan Carr gave his side the ideal start, scoring after just four minutes. Shildon did their best to respond, but two headers from Coppen saw the Robins record a comprehensive win and make it 14 league wins in a row.

They are now just six games away from creating club history and bringing the Northern League title to NE29.

After coming off the bench to score the winner in the 2-1 victory over Consett on Wednesday, Dan Wilson was chosen to lead the line, and he made an instant impact.

Following a cleverly worked free kick from McKeown, Wilson managed to strike his shot off the post, and despite being fouled, Carr was on hand to tap home the follow-up for a crucial early lead.

Carr’s opener was the only real piece of action in the opening half hour before Shildon began to ask questions in the final 15 minutes of the half.

But for all their threatening possession, a well-organised Robins limited the visitors’ opportunities on Kyle Hayes goal - it took until the 39th minute to register a save out of the Shields keeper after he dived low to keep out Sam Hodgson’s effort.

Shildon’s dominant possession continued into the second half, but again the Robins were not to be broken down. As the away side’s pressure began to simmer around the hour mark, McKeown’s set-pieces saw Shields to pull away from their opponents.

In the 66th minute, McKeown whipped a beautifully aimed free kick into the area and Coppen rose above his man at the back post to give Shields some much-needed breathing space.

Coppen was booked for removing his shirt in the resulting celebration, but after almost certainly guaranteeing his side the win, he would not have minded.

Gareth Bainbridge, who replaced Wilson with 15 minutes to go, was close to finding the net, though his first touch gave his opponent time to recover to block in the 80th minute.

When the away side were presented with their best chance of the second period, five minutes from time, Lewis Wing flashed his shot off target.

And on a statement-making afternoon, defender Coppen had time to add his second of the game as another McKeown cross resulted in another bullet Coppen header.

North Shields turn their attentions towards a tricky trip to Bishop Auckland on Saturday.