North Shields’ title challenge all but over after cross-Tyne derby defeat

Action from North Shields' derby with South Shields. Picture by Peter Talbot
Action from North Shields' derby with South Shields. Picture by Peter Talbot

Former North Shields manager Graham Fenton returned to his old club on Saturday and delivered a huge blow to their Northern League division one title challenge.

South Shields leap-frogged the Robins into first place on goal difference as David Foley’s first-half strike was enough to earn the win in an encounter where both keepers were rarely tested.

Despite the visitors being reduced to 10-men on the hour when Julio Arca received a second yellow card, the Mariners held firm as the Robins were left disappointed that they could not take advantage of having the extra man.

South Shields have two games in hand over the Robins, and with 31 wins in a row, it is now almost impossible to see either North Shields or Morpeth Town denying them the league title.

In front of a packed crowd of 1,575 at the Daren Persson Stadium, the first big chance fell to South Shields as Darren Lough advanced from left-back into the penalty area to flash an effort wide in the fifth minute.

Dan Wilson then registered North Shields’ first effort on eight minutes when he met Gary Ormston’s free kick, though the header was wide.

South Shields took the lead with their first shot on target through Foley on 23 minutes. He hit a shot from outside the area that looped over keeper Kyle Hayes.

The Robins’ closest opportunities to equalising came from direct balls into the area. Crosses from Lee Mason and Marc Lancaster caused some problems for the Mariners but they managed to clear each time.

South Shields were denied a second before half-time when Foley lofted the ball over Hayes, but Lancaster produced heroic defending to clear the ball off the line.

In the second half, Hayes saved an early low header from Robert Briggs before the action really began to unfold.

Having been shown yellow three minutes previous, Arca received his second yellow on 60 minutes for bringing down a Robins player on the attack.

And for the next five minutes, North Shields had their tails up. Wilson instantly had a shot deflected wide after cutting inside before the resulting corner saw Kevin Hughes’ header blocked.

Despite being down to ten, Foley had another attempt cleared off the line from a corner on 73 minutes.

Robins boss Jon McDonald threw on his attacking substitutes for the final 20 minutes in Craig McFarlane, Gareth Bainbridge and Joe Kerridge, but South Shields held out.

McDonald said:“When South Shields went down to ten, I thought we got a little bit of momentum at that stage, but it never fell for us.

“It’s disappointing but we have two games left and we owe it to ourselves and the club to finish strong.”