North Shields one win away from winning title

Dan Smart scores for North Shields. Picture by Ian Warde.

Dan Smart scores for North Shields. Picture by Ian Warde.

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The Robins, already celebrating promotion, enhanced their prospects of winning the league title after going nap against an in-form Whickham side.

Now needing one more win, or potentially two draws, North Shields can finally clinch their crown if they come out on top in the Shields derby next Saturday.

Ben Richardson on the ball for North Shields. Picture by Ian Warde.

Ben Richardson on the ball for North Shields. Picture by Ian Warde.

Team boss Graham Fenton made three changes to his starting line-up following the hard earned point achieved at Heaton Stannington midweek.

Joe Elliott, Phil Robinson and Dan Smart lined up in place of the injured Michael Tait and Dean Walker and Stuart Donnison who reverted to the bench as the squad was rotated.

Whickham travelled with a string of victories under their belts but were subjected to pressure right from the off.

Keeper John Mordey saved at point blank range from Ben Richardson after Dean Holmes had carved out the opening before the Robins made the all important breakthrough with 21 minutes on the watch.

Michael Turner, who has slotted in superbly at left back following John Grey being sidelined, combined with Phil Robinson and when the ball reached Dan Smart he produced a delicate dink over the visiting custodian.

Dean Holmes was perfectly positioned at the far post to touch in a Robinson cross just four minutes later and it was looking plain sailing for the Shieldsmen at 2-0.

However, virtually straight from the re-start the hosts were caught sleeping and Mathew Atkin was allowed an opportunity to reduce the deficit.

Shields, though, stepped up a gear and when Gareth Bainbridge was released through on goal there was only to be one outcome – another strike to add to his phenomenal tally.

It was 4-1 seconds before the half time whistle with a blistering finish into the top corner from Man of the Match Smart, his 28th of the campaign.

In the second period Bainbridge nodded just over then forced Mordey to parry behind but he was not to be denied, getting on the scoresheet again in the 73rd minute to record his side’s fifth of the afternoon and rack up his own number 55 of the season.

Michael McKeown, introduced late on, wasted little time in exerting his talents and a dazzling run set up Bainbridge but a double block on the line thwarted the Robins hot shot of a hat trick.

NORTH SHIELDS: M Robinson Elliott, Turner, Richardson, Parker, Hughes (McKeown), P Robinson (Donnison), Forster, Bainbridge, Smart (Walker 80), Holmes. Subs not used: Smith, Courtney.