THIS was a must not lose game for North Shields FC but, with time running out, they trailed and looked on course for a fourth successive single goal reverse.
However, after 356 scoreless minutes, skipper Keith Douglas dramatically levelled from the spot after he was brought down to earn a precious point.
Fifth top Marske’s aim was to make wobbly Shields crack under the promotion pressure during their current rough patch but Anthony Woodhouse’s lads displayed character and grit to travel home reasonably contented and relieved.
The draw, though, worked in favour of Team Northumbria who moved up to third and, with Newton Aycliffe already promoted and Guisborough almost there, it’s going to be a stiff and tense battle ahead for the remaining spot.
Shields made a number of changes to the side that exited the Ernest Armstrong Trophy at Whickham with Femi Akinbolu pushed up front, Newcastle United Academy player Ryan Page handed a midfield role and Joe Elliott partnering Ross Atkinson in defence.
Akinbolu released James Luccock with a peach of a ball early on but Marske keeper Jon McDonald made a fine block whilst at the other end former Shields favourite Danny Brunskill was playing for the first time against his former club and the ex-Whitby Town striker unleashed an absolute belter that was brilliantly and spectacularly tipped away by Michael Robinson, once more donning the Shields’ gloves.
Home captain Stephen Gamble whipped in a drive that just cleared the angle but before the interval the Robins went close with Elliott finding Atkinson on the edge of the box and whose fierce cross only eluded Douglas by a whisker.
The Mount Pleasant outfit exerted a spell of pressure on the resumption, but Shields held firm with Elliott and Atkinson tackling with conviction and with Robbie Livermore relishing the challenge in the middle of the park it was proving a refreshing spectacle.
Shields had been on the receiving end of a ludicrous penalty award at Whickham and looked crest fallen when Steve Cochrane only just beat Robinson in the 65th minute after an Anthony Ormerod shot was adjudged to have been handled.
The Robins tried to respond but there were only five minutes left when Douglas received from Akinbolu only to be clattered while lining up his shot and he duly converted his 32nd goal of the campaign.
Joe Elliott was named the Shields’ man of the match.
North Shields: M Robinson, Hall (Pattison 73), Patterson, Livermore, Elliott, Atkinson, Rasmussen (Baistow 46), Page, Akinbolu, Douglas, Luccock (Laws 80). Subs (not used) Cartwright, S Robinson.
Shields host Crook Town at the Daren Persson Stadium at Ralph Gardner Park on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, before travelling to Whitehaven on Tuesday, April 5.
The Robins were 5-2 victors over Crook in a Northern League Cup tie in September (Rasmussen 2, Bowman 2, Douglas) and won 3-2 with points at stake at the Millfield Ground (Luccock 2, Douglas).
Remaining fixtures are: Tuesday, April 5 v Whitehaven (away); Saturday, April 9 v Morpeth Town (away); Tuesday, April 12 v Thornaby (home); Saturday, April 16 v Washington (away); Thursday, April 21 v Gillford Park (away); Saturday, April 23 v Hebburn Town (home); Saturday, April 30 v Marske United (home).