Having now chalked up ten league wins on the bounce, North Shields commenced the new year just as they finished the old – with a six-goal blast.
Robins supporters had relished a pre-Christmas treat as the table toppers came from behind to see off Ryton and Crawcrook Albion by 6-1 thanks to a Gareth Bainbridge hat-trick, a Dean Holmes brace with Dean Walker completing the tally.
It’s now a staggering 92 league strikes for Graham Fenton’s lads but not only are they finding the net they have kept 13 clean sheets in 25 games at the other end.
Shields now hold a six point advantage plus a match in hand over their Benton neighbours after putting together that 30 points out of 30 on offer run during which they have rattled in 44 goals, yielding a mere six.
Even without 21 goal Dan Smart in their last two outings, the Shieldsmen prosper on all fronts as a Bainbridge double boosted his total to 39 in league and cup encounters with Brandon also reeling from Dean Holmes, Dean Walker, Adam Scope and Joe Elliott finishes.
A massive boost for the club before the game was the signing of stylish midfielder Michael McKeown from Seaham Red Star who settled in instantly, spraying the ball about as if he’d never been away, he scored four cracking goals in the last campaign.
Assistant boss Andy Bowman reflected after the game.
“It’s always worrying when you haven’t played for a while but we came out like Christmas hadn’t happened.
“In the first half we passed the ball so well and carved out six or seven clear cut chances but couldn’t finish.
“After the break we continued in the same vein but managed to end our moves clinically and when our right back Joe Elliott is scoring with his left foot you know it’s your day.
“There’s some tough games coming up but our squad are looking forward to hopefully completing the job we have started.”
Just how Brandon kept their goal intact during the opening half relied almost entirely upon the heroics of keeper Chris Sawyer who dealt with all that came his way.
Once McKeown released Holmes to coolly convert two minutes into the second period the outcome was never in doubt.
A great run to the bye-line by man of the match Holmes set up Walker to rifle home then substitute Adam Scope, only just introduced, cut in to send a rasping drive past the keeper.
The Robins were rampant now and Bainbridge took full advantage of a poor clearance to advance and slot past Sawyer then on the 69 minute mark Shields went nap, Elliott notching his third of the season with aplomb following a storming run and a crisp finish with that left foot.
Bainbridge was on the scoresheet again four minutes from the whistle to make it 6-0 and complete a rousing performance.
North Shields: Courtney, Elliott (Donnison 78), Grey, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Holmes, McKeown, Bainbridge, Forster (Hook 68), Walker (Scope 60). Subs not used: Smith, Ball.
On Saturday it’s a trip to Boldon to face fellow promotion hopefuls Jarrow Roofing (3pm), a Dan Smart goal separating the sides on the opening day of the season.
Remaining January fixtures are: Saturday, January 18, Washington, home; Wednesday, January 22, Brandon, away (League Cup); Tuesday, January 28, Alnwick, away.
Shields will travel to either Willington or Darlington RA in the quarter final of the Ernest Armstrong Cup.