North Shields seal division title on significant anniversary day

North Shields players, staff and fans celebrating winning the Ebac Northern League Division 2 title. Picture by Ian Warde.
North Shields players, staff and fans celebrating winning the Ebac Northern League Division 2 title. Picture by Ian Warde.
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There could not have been a more fitting day for North Shields to be crowned Northern League division two champions.

April 12, 1969, is etched in the memories of all Robins supporters, the date the club won the FA Amateur Cup at Wembley – the only Northumberland side and last Northern League team to do so.

And on the anniversary of that great day 45 years on, a North Shields success over their derby rivals saw them over the line with two matches still to play.

North Shields last played a Northern League first division game on April 22, 1989, at Billingham Town, with the new fixtures for August being eagerly anticipated.

The Robins rejoined the Northern League second division in 2004, so ten years on, at the Eden Lane ground in Peterlee, at the end of 90 minutes the champagne corks were popping.

Graham Fenton had to reckon without regular keeper Michael Robinson so Tom Courtney once more donned the gloves, this time against his former club, whilst the ultra prolific strike force of Gareth Bainbridge and Dan Smart – who have netted 83 times between them – were both unavailable.

Defender Colin White had to don the Mariners’ keeper top and was soon in action, keeping out a Dean Holmes effort.

In blustery conditions the hosts bossed the early exchanges and took the lead when a cross was flicked on for Adam Burnicle to rifle into the net.

Chances went begging as South Shields strove to extend their advantage with Ben Riding twice heading wide when well placed, Courtney saving from Stephen Ramsey and Kevin Hughes and John Parker crucially blocking on the line.

The table toppers did find the net themselves through Hughes, but the strike was disallowed with play brought back for a free kick that came to nothing.

The half-time team talk had the desired effect, Joe Elliott was introduced into the middle of the park and two goals in as many minutes turned the game on its head.

Sporting the No. 9 shirt, Dean Walker shrugged off a defender to shoot, and taking a slight deflection off a defender the ball bulged the net, much to the delight of the large visiting support.

Then a brilliant run from Holmes saw him unleash dazzling skills to waltz goalwards and plant in a beauty.

It was all over on 66 minutes with Stu Donnison surging into the box and squaring to Walker who made no mistake.

It could have been more as White saved at the near post from Walker following a tremendous run to the byline and cross from Michael McKeown, then a delicate Holmes chip floated only inches over.

North Shields: Courtney, Donnison, Turner, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, P Robinson (Elliott 46), McKeown, Walker (Bowman 88), Holmes, Wrightson. Subs not used: Smith, Forster, Tait.