THE Robins found a hat-trick hero in Rob Nolan, kept a first clean sheet of the campaign and racked up their first three points at the Daren Persson Stadium – all on Saturday afternoon.
Shields turned in an all-round consummate performance but it was Nolan, recently signed from Washington, who took the plaudits.
Nolan had one goal to his name when he turned out for the Shieldsmen some four seasons ago but he has returned to make a splash and has now netted five times in just three appearances, without completing a full 90 minutes.
His first strike against a Darlington RA side third in the table and, who travelled unbeaten away from home, came five minutes from the interval.
Great work from James Harmison and Dean Holmes found skipper Dan Patterson wide on the left flank and he unleashed a teasing cross that Railway keeper Jake Wood could only flap at and Nolan was lurking to plant a crisp drive into the net.
His second goal, on 56 minutes, to give the Robins some breathing space was an absolute gem and one to savour.
Latching onto a through ball Nolan found himself surrounded by visiting defenders so he smartly shrugged a couple off before steadying himself and rifling in a beauty.
A third to wrap up the points came 11 minutes later as he celebrated with a shot that deceived the keeper Wood.
The Robins had managed only the one hat-trick last season, Paul Gordon’s three in the 5-1 verdict over Ryton and Crawcrook but, in 2010-11, Keith Douglas bagged six, Andy Hay one whilst James Luccock struck four times after coming on as substitute – against Darlington RA.
Michael Robinson donned the Shields gloves again and proved his side’s saviour in the first minute, diving at the feet of centre forward Stephen Allison who had appeared a certain scorer, set to profit from a short back pass.
Settling down the Robins introduced new acquisition, Michael McKeown from Seaham Red Star in the middle of the park and he looks to be a shrewd signing by boss Graham Fenton.
Ben Richardson’s free kick just cleared the angle, then Harmison powerfully met a McKeown set-piece but Wood saved.
Nolan forced the custodian to tip behind then McKeown’s corner caused a goalmouth melee with first Joe Elliott’s header scrambled off the line then Harmison’s follow-up rattling the bar.
Darlington threatened with Louis Whensley firing over and Robinson thwarting Allison again before Nolan gave the hosts that first half advantage.
On the turnaround James Howlett all but turned a Patterson centre into his own net, Nolan made it 2-0, Holmes and Harmison were close to getting on the scoresheet before Nolan notched again and trooped off to generous applause.
His replacement Andy Hay, nearly made it four with a header inches over from another great Patterson delivery, then forced Wood to touch behind whilst late in the game the visitors strove hard for a consolation but could find no way past Robinson.
North Shields: Robinson, Hook, Patterson, Hall, Elliott (Rowntree 72), Harmison, Richardson (Douglas 46), McKeown, Nolan (Hay 69), Forster, Holmes. Subs not used: Wright, McCafferty. Man of the match: Rob Nolan.
Next up for the Robins are Crook Town, kick off at the Millfield Ground on Saturday is 3pm.
On Tuesday, October 16, at 7.30pm, Shields make their first visit to the Ironworks Ground at Tow Law since 1989 – a 0-0 draw.