Having racked up four league wins on the bounce, with seven goals scored and only one conceded, it’s little wonder that North Shields boss Graham Fenton was beaming at the final whistle after seeing his side beat Dunston UTS 2-1.
This was a tight encounter between the current FA Vase holders and former victors Dunston, managed by ex-Shieldsmen Billy Irwin and Tony Harrison, keeper when Shields famously won in the FA Cup at Halifax in 1982.
Tommy Orrick, the North Shields super-substitute as they lifted the old FA Amateur Cup, a precursor to the FA Vase, at Wembley, had sadly passed away the previous day at the age of 74.
Tommy was a North Shields legend and would have relished meeting up again with his 1969 team-mates and current players including boss Graham Fenton as they proudly repeated the 2-1 scoreline his side had recorded at Wembley.
The Dunston clash was also special as it marked the 100th appearance for the club of goal predator Gareth Bainbridge, the Northern League’s player of the year.
Bainbridge has netted 105 times for the Robins, including that crucial leveller in May to force extra time.
In the starting Shields line-up were Gary Ormston, an ever-present with Dunston last term, and striker Dan Wilson, who swapped clubs earlier this campaign.
The Shieldsmen could not have made a better start as influential midfielder Michael McKeown unleashed a 25-yard stunner into the top corner that just about burst the net, giving visiting keeper and captain Liam Connell no chance whatsoever.
The cheers had all but died down before man of the match Ben Richardson curled and dipped a sublime free kick over the wall, and it was 2-0.
Shields perhaps switched off for a second and Dunston centre forward Steven Richardson reduced the deficit only minutes later.
Connell then saved suprrbly from Ormston as the hosts continued to press, with Dunston battling well but with little goal threat.
The Robins’ keeper confidently held on to a low Dale Burrell free kick early in the second period, but that was as close as they came, as the Gateshead side’s boss, Billy Irwin, readily admitted.
Shields were worthy winners, though they couldn’t quite put the game to bed, despite Dunston having Dan Smith dismissed after receiving a second yellow card on 71 minutes.
Bainbridge twice went close to making the points safe, as did Ormston and Wilson, who both saw their efforts somehow blocked on the line.
With only a slender advantage, there was always a chance that all the hard work would be thrown away, but with John Parker and Curtis Coppen again supreme at the back, the Robins duly celebrated at the whistle.
North Shields: McCafferty, Donnison, Summerly (Grey 88), McKeown, Parker, Coppen, Ormston, Richardson, Bainbridge (McGorrigan 72), Wilson, Holmes (Luccock 78). Subs (not used): Hughes, Walker.
Shields, ahead of their league game against Durham City tonight, are now in sixth place, two above Dunston and four points ahead of them, though Dunston have two games in hand.