A HARMISON humdinger ensured a third successive home win for the Robins to further galvanise their promotion challenge.
None of the three victories have been comfortable nor overly spectacular but they have borne out through flashes of brilliance to compliment the gritty side of their game.
Mid-table Washington were dismissed thanks to a trio of strikes inside the final 20 minutes whilst only a solitary goal saw off Brandon and, in this latest encounter, Shields rallied from a half-time deficit to defeat Esh.
Centre half James Harmison, captain in the absence of Dan Patterson, was the Shields saviour, volleying in a Keith Douglas free kick with quarter of an hour left on the clock after Adam Forster had sparked the revival with the leveller 12 minutes into the second half.
Still without influential front runner Dean Holmes, Graham Fenton handed the keepers’ gloves back to Sean McCafferty with Michael Robinson unavailable whilst Kieran Wrightson returned to the starting 11.
Leading marksman Rob Nolan, by and large operating as a lone striker, would have fancied adding to his tally early on but he wasn’t able to convert a delicious cross from Jonathan Hall.
The Shieldsmen dominated possession with Ben Richardson and Forster prominent yet not too many clear openings were conjured up.
Indeed a goalless first period looked on the cards but on 38 minutes the hosts were shaken as a free kick was only partially cleared and, when the ball came back in, Shaun Thompson’s effort somehow squirmed over the line.
It was just about McCafferty’s first exertion of the afternoon to pick the ball out of the net and the half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Fenton’s men.
The Robins needed a boost and the fresh legs of Michael McKeown and Douglas produced the desired effect.
McKeown, who tested visiting custodian Tom Courtney with his first touch, was particularly effective spraying the ball about with style and precision and soon Shields were celebrating an equaliser.
John Hook and Hall combined down the right flank and, when the centre came over, Forster was lurking to tuck the ball home at the far post.
The crowd were roused and Harmison notched his fifth goal of the campaign as he hammered home a Douglas free kick with aplomb for what proved the winner.
Richardson all but made it three moments later with a terrific strike that whistled past the post then Shields set about taking the sting out of any Esh response.
They did so adeptly and stoppage time action was almost exclusively encamped near the Esh corner flag as the Robins sought to retain control.
Richardson’s snap shot was smartly parried by Courtney as Shields trooped off with maximum points to keep the pressure on the leaders.
North Shields: McCafferty, Hook, Grey, Richardson, Harmison, Elliott, Hall, Forster (Akinbolu 79), Nolan, Watson (Douglas 55), Wrightson (McKeown 46). Subs not used: McCabe, Wright. Man of the match: Michael McKeown.
Following the Robins’ clash at Darlington RA on Saturday (3pm), Fenton’s lads still have 16 league fixtures to play as well as involvement in three cup competitions.
Shields will travel to Washington on Wednesday, February 27 (7.30pm) for an Ernest Armstrong Cup tie.
Bishop Auckland will now travel to the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday, March 13 in the Northern League Cup with Ashington set to visit on Wednesday, March 20 when a place in the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup will be at stake.