Late equaliser forces North Shields to FA Cup replay

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SATURDAY’S FA Cup extra preliminary round tie between North Shields and Birtley Town did not have a surprising outcome as it represented a fifth successive draw between the two sides.

The Robins, though, will feel they should have edged this one after dominating the first period only to be pegged back by a late equaliser.

The season’s opener saw four players make their North Shields debuts with Ben Richardson, John Hook and Phil Robinson all in the starting line-up and Rob McCrudden on the bench as Danny Patterson led the side out.

Neither side threatened in a tentative opening before the hosts took the lead on 23 minutes.

Robinson collected a short corner before finding Paul Watson, whose drive into the danger area nestled sweetly between the posts via a visiting defender.

Little was seen of Birtley as an attacking force before the break with Richardson and Adam Forster pulling the strings in the middle of the park for the Robins.

Watson could have doubled his tally but headed a Hook centre wide.

But on the turnaround, Shields had keeper Michael Robinson to thank as he brilliantly kept out a pile-driver fro Jack Honour.

A second goal for Graham Fenton’s men looked on the cards on 65 minutes as Dean Holmes rounded keeper Neal Bussey, but Birtley skipper Andrew Grant-Soulsby got back to dramatically produce a goal-line clearance.

A diving header by Joe Elliott flashed over with the Shields number six soon back in the action at the other end, thwarting Dan Smart with a last-ditch tackle.

With the clock ticking over, Birtley sensed they could still get something from the afternoon, and after 87 minutes Robinson, under pressure, punched away a free kick but the ball was returned goalwards and Grant-Soulsby was left unmarked to nod home and set up a replay on Tuesday evening.

North Shields: M Robinson, Hook, Patterson, Forster, Harmison (Akinbolu 70 mins), Elliott, P Robinson (McCrudden 75 mins), Richardson, Douglas, Holmes (Rowntree 83 mins), Watson. Subs not used: Bowman, Fenton.

North Shields open their Ebac Northern League campaign at Jarrow Roofing on Saturday (3pm) before entertaining Morpeth Town on Wednesday (7.30pm).