North Shields’ majestic season ends with a rare defeat

The curtain came down on a truly majestic season for the Robins with a bit of a whimper.

The result did not really matter, of course, as all the hard work had long been done with the championship and promotion in the bank.

Still it was a surprising and rare reverse for the Shieldsmen – only their fourth in the league during the entire campaign.

A total of 141 goals rattled in plus another 21 in knockout ties and only 33 conceded including 20 clean sheets in 42 league fixtures speaks volumes for the quality of the side.

Graham Fenton’s side ended up ten points ahead of their nearest challengers West Allotment Celtic, proudly sporting a 100-point return.

Fifty-five-goal Gareth Bainbridge relished his 20-minute run out at Darlington’s Brinkburn Road ground and all but added to his phenomenal tally following a surging run from right back Jack Donnison into the area, but it was not to be the Robins’ day.

Despite the travelling support in good spirits no one could disguise that this was a damp squib of a match, petering out like the weather in a downpour.

Shields’ hopes were virtually evaporated once Dean Holmes was forced to leave the field through injury then goalscorer Dan Smart was rested.

It was Smart who had cancelled out Jimmy Muir’s rather bizarre opener for Railway, racing clear to slot past the keeper on the half hour for his 30th strike of the season.

It was perhaps fitting that Smart scored his side’s last goal of the campaign as he also netted the first on the opening day in the 1-0 verdict over Jarrow Roofing.

Paul New popped in a scrappy winner for the hosts 11 minutes from the whistle, and though the Tynesiders pushed everyone forward including keeper Michael Robinson in the closing stages, they were unable to fathom an equaliser.

North Shields: M Robinson, Donnison, McKeown (Grey 46), Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Holmes (Wrightson 63), Forster, Smart (Bainbridge 70), Tait, Walker. Subs not used: P Robinson, Courtney.

Sheilds’ man of the match was Dan Smart.

Following the game, manager Fenton said: ‘It was a nothing game really, but of course we still wanted to end with a victory.

“Perhaps we had our minds too much on next season.

“There’s a brilliant feeling around the club.”

Assistant player/boss Andy Bowman, who celebrated his tenth season with Shields in the Northern League as well as being part of the side that were Wearside League champions in 2002, added: “We didn’t want this season to finish, it’s been fantastic with the lads coming up trumps in every department.

“Its a remarkable achievement – roll on August.”

North Shields hold their presentation evening at Chirton Club on Friday, May 2, at 8pm, and all supporters are welcome to attend and toast the lads’ success.