Holmes has the answer as FA Vase holders North Shields advance

Dean Holmes celebrates scoring the only goal of the game as North Shields beat Runcorn in their FA Vase replay. Picture by Ally Middleton
Dean Holmes celebrates scoring the only goal of the game as North Shields beat Runcorn in their FA Vase replay. Picture by Ally Middleton
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Dedication, flair and team spirit saw North Shields lift the FA Vase at Wembley last May.

And there was plenty more on show as the Robins made the long trek to Cheshire on Monday night to beat Runcorn Town in a third round replay.

Boosted by a sizeable travelling support, Graham Fenton’s men gave every indication that the holders are not going to relinquish their grasp of the honoured trophy.

A near full strength squad was able to travel with skipper Kevin Hughes leading the side out.

A number of the Wembley heroes are still sidelined through injury but match-winner Adam Forster was able to take his place on the bus to cheer his team-mates on.

Hosts Runcorn had secured a North West Premier League success just two days earlier and must have fancied their chances of causing an upset after the 1-1 draw at the Daren Persson Stadium earned them a replay.

Shields, though, were fresh out of the blocks, despite a recent lack of pitch action due to postponements.

Conditions were understandably heavy but there was no rain falling as Shields started sprightly.

Michael McKeown’s free kick needed a smart save from home custodian Dan Lever, centre forward Dan Wilson was only just off target, Ben Richardson went close and man of the match James Luccock all but touched in a Dean Holmes cross as Town struggled to retain parity.

Town were not creating much, although Gareth Grant drove wide on the half hour mark.

Dean Holmes scores the only goal of the game as North Shields beat Runcorn in their FA Vase replay. Picture by Ally Middleton

Dean Holmes scores the only goal of the game as North Shields beat Runcorn in their FA Vase replay. Picture by Ally Middleton

Then just before the break Wilson produced a neat turn and shot over the bar from a Marc Lancaster centre, but the first period ended goalless with Sean McCafferty in the Shields gloves dealing capably with anything that came his way as he was well protected by an awesome Robins back line.

It was tense after the break as both sides sought a breakthrough.

Ben Richardson and Gary Ormston both tested the keeper before a moment of quality came on the 62 minute mark.

There was a spark of magic down the left flank as Wilson stood firm to retain possession and cross to Richardson to unlock the key and set up Holmes to jubilantly blast into the net from close range.

That proved to be the match-winner – again from Holmes – and no Robins fans will ever forget his crucial strikes in the quarter-final at Erith and Belvedere last season and in both legs of the semi-final against Highworth Town.

The Tynesiders made three changes as the clock ticked over, with the fresh legs of goal talisman Gareth Bainbridge and fellow forwards Ryan McGorrigan and Peter Glen-Ravenhill foraging up front in counter attacks as the hosts tried to engineer an equaliser by pushing forward.

But Fenton’s team were in no mood to let this one slip with every player giving their all and Runcorn’s big threat Paul Shanley was well marshalled.

It was to be another clean sheet for the Robins and this one was particularly well revered by those present.

A shorter trip to either South Shields or Morpeth Town in the next round awaits for the holders, but when that will be is up in the air as things stand.

After the win, a delighted Robins assistant manager Andy Bowman said: “It was a colossal team performance to overcome a good Runcorn side on their own patch.

“I thought we took them a little by surprise by just how well we started and how fresh we were after a near four-hour journey.

“Actually we dominated much of the 90-plus minutes but we had to be patient and got our reward – the lads were brilliant and its a massive round ahead.”

North Shields: McCafferty, Donnison, Lancaster, McKeown, Parker, Hughes, Luccock, Ormston, Wilson (Bainbridge 63), Richardson (Glen-Ravenhill 85), Holmes (McGorrigan 71). Subs not sued: Coppen, Bannon.

Highlights of the game are available on the North Shields FC website.