North Shields’ spirits have been lifted with a gutsy draw and a deserved victory inside four days as they arrested their slide down the table.
Before the midweek meeting with third top Jarrow Roofing, the Robins’ points haul had been a paltry three from 27 on offer, but the depleted hosts rolled their sleeves up and despite losing keeper Sean McCafferty and defender Peter Bradley in the first half with injuries, battled magnificently to share the spoils at a wind and rain lashed Daren Persson Stadium.
Ben Richardson dragged himself off the treatment table to lead the side out whilst, by the interval, Michael Robinson had donned the gloves, making a brilliant instinctive save within seconds of coming on and Dan Patterson had returned to the fray.
Graham Fenton’s lads carved out openings of their own as the clock ticked over but the game was destined to end goalless with the Robins real heroes at the back with Robinson handling confidently and John Hook, Jon Hall, John Grey and Patterson determined not to be beaten.
A Dean Holmes brace enabled the Robins to complete a league double over mid-table Ryton & Crawcrook Albion in an engaging encounter on Saturday.
Joe Elliott and Keith Douglas, lynchpins of the side, were able to return to the starting 11 and the Shieldsmen were celebrating after just five minutes when Holmes blasted in a rocket that bulged the back of the net before visiting keeper John Mordey could move.
The Robins continued to play some enterprising football with Adam Forster, once more covering every blade of grass and Holmes tormenting Ryton anytime he gained possession.
Elliott all but touched in a teasing centre from Kieran Wrightson then, when Stuart Wright nodded a Douglas corner back into the danger area, Mordey saved from Elliott.
Shields only had the one goal to show for all their dominance at the break but, as the second period unwound, Ryton, who included former Robin Paul Blakey at number eight, sensed they had a chance of a leveller.
Centre forward Lawrence McKenna rifled just over the angle but, at the other end, a Holmes effort was deflected behind then substitute Adam Rowntree was set for a clear run on goal only for a questionable flag to be raised.
Holmes shot past the post, and Mordey saved from Grey before Robinson had to smartly dive at the feet of McKenna.
Mordey was the busier custodian and twice more kept out drives from Holmes but the visitors should have equalised with six minutes remaining but McKenna’s attempt cleared the angle.
Benefiting from that let-up Shields went 2-0 up on 87 minutes, Holmes coolly converting following an assist from Andy Bowman.
It wasn’t quite all over as Michael Watson, who made a number of appearances for the Robins earlier in the campaign, pulled one back straight away but Shields held on.
North Shields: Robinson, Hook, Grey, Forster, Hall, Elliott, Wrightson (Richardson 75), Patterson, Wright (Bowman 80), Douglas (Rowntree 57), Holmes. Subs (not used): Fenton, McCafferty.
A poignant minutes silence was held before the North Shields versus Jarrow Roofing match in memory of the parents of popular Robins player Femi Akinbolu who both died in a car accident whilst in Ghana.
The club’s thoughts and sincere condolences are with Femi and his sister Sandra at this tragic time.
North Shields’ final two games of the season are both against Chester-le-Street Town.
It’s a 3pm kick off at Chester’s Moor Park on Saturday then a 7.30pm start on Tuesday at Ralph Gardner Park.