JUST when North Shields FC needed a helping hand the Shields townsfolk let them down.
Saturday’s game against Guisborough was such a crucial encounter, third versus second with both vying for a promotion slot, the disappointing turn-out beggared belief.
After all the Shieldmen have put together a record breaking 20 match unbeaten record in Northern League games, surpassing even the Wembley wizards of 1969.
The ultras did their best but that extra assist from the terraces was lacking.
Anthony Woodhouse and Graham Fenton’s lads are now suffering a dip in form – it had to happen sometime – but, with the run in intensifying, it’s certainly badly timed.
The 90 minutes were a virtual replica of the Whitehaven clash seven days earlier with the normally prolific Robins again failing to find the net and losing to a solitary goal.
There were two changes to the starting line-up with Paul Watson and James Luccock coming in for the injured and unavailable Ryan Page and Phil Cartwright respectively.
However, the absence of Andy Hay up front was again so significant with 31-goal Keith Douglas barely getting a sniff this time round.
The game was decided by a second minute strike.
Lanky Guisborough centre-forward and skipper David Onions – otherwise well marshalled by Femi Akinbolu – added to his tally by latching on to a through ball and profited from a defensive lapse to slip the ball past Craig Pickering.
Shields looked capable of repairing the damage, engineering a couple of half chances that unfortunately fell to the weaker foot of Michael Pattison whilst Luccock’s first-timer crept over the angle.
Ross Atkinson’s far post header from a Luccock corner that looped agonisingly over in the opening action of the second period raised hopes of a much needed leveller but the remaining minutes petered out.
The visitors possessed a capable but not over worked keeper in former Blyth Spartan Jack Norton and as Shields lost Watson, their most influential midfielder, with a recurrence of his injury, their efforts became increasingly desperate.
North Shields: Pickering, Hall, Patterson, Livermore, Akinbolu, Atkinson (Bowman 87), Rasmussen, Watson (Wright 56), Pattison (Laws 67), Douglas, Luccock. Subs not used: Graham, Elliott.
Shields visit Marske’s Mount Pleasant Ground for a crunch league encounter on Saturday, 3pm.
This will be the first meeting between the sides in this campaign.
Marske, who include former Shields front runner and top goal scorer in 1999 Danny Brunskill, have now closed the gap and lie five points adrift of the Robins.
Last season a late Hay equaliser bagged a point in North Yorkshire, in 2008-09 a Stuart Heppell brace and a Mark Rasmussen special secured a 3-0 verdict, whilst Paul Watson and David Henderson netted in a 2-2 draw 12 months earlier.