Robins’ away run moves to 25 unbeaten

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IT’S 25 up for the Robins.

Following their 3-0 success at bottom club Easington on Saturday, North Shields have now not lost in a quarter century consecutive away league matches – a remarkable achievement from Anthony Woodhouse’s men.

The Shieldsmen consolidated second position in the division two table, seven points behind leaders Team Northumbria with four games in hand and opened up a five-point gap between themselves and the third placed club, currently West Allotment Celtic.

It was against Celtic on Boxing Day that a quality strike by Andy Hay and a towering Scott Blandford header secured a 2-1 win for the Robins over their promotion rivals.

Hay was again on target at Easington’s Welfare Park, notching his side’s third as Shields had the points safely wrapped up by half-time.

It was the Robin’s fifth ever visit to Easington and their fourth victory with one drawn match between the sides.

Between 1986-89 they won 1-0 (Gus McArdle) and 3-0 (Paul Pitman 2, Derek Bell) with the points shared 3-3 (Pitman 2, Keith Mills).

With Shields rejoining the Northern League in 2004 they travelled again and goals from current assistant manager Andy Bowman and Tony Colquhoun earned a 2-1 win.

Following relegation, this is Easington’s first season back in the competition after becoming Wearside League champions last term.

The hosts included only three of the players who turned out in the 2-2 draw at the Daren Persson Stadium in September whilst Shields’ starting 11 contained just four players who took to the field that night – keeper Michael Robinson, Kevin Hughes, Hay and James Luccock.

From the side that appeared in Shields’ last outing, the 1-1 draw with Alnwick, there were four changes with Hughes, Danny Bowlt, Dean Holmes and Andy Wright replacing Neil Baistow, Gareth McAlindon, Robbie Livermore and Keith Douglas.

Paul Dunn led the team out with Douglas, still striving for that elusive 50th goal for the club, coming on as a second half substitute.

Just four minutes had elapsed when Hay’s header from a Wright free kick was scrambled off the line.

Then following a great move involving Hay and Blandford, Luccock’s low shot was blocked by home keeper Dean Caris.

Shields went in front with 27 minutes on the clock when Luccock’s corner was cleared only as far as Hughes, who drilled in a superb strike from just outside the area to record his first goal since joining Shields in the summer.

Only three minutes on and it was 2-0 with Dunn hammering in a free kick that gave Caris no chance.

The keeper held on as Hay wriggled clear before the Shields number ten nodded home seconds before the interval whistle to make it eight for the campaign so far.

James Harmison was within a whisker of opening his account for the club right at the start of the second period whilst at the other end Robinson was called into action to tip over a curling Simon Todd free kick.

Woodhouse made a triple substitution after 64 minutes introducing Douglas, Livermore and Paul Watson and it was the last named who set up a chance for the Shields hot-shot but Caris bravely blocked.

The over-worked keeper continued to thwart the Tynesiders, parrying from Hay then tipping over a Douglas header whilst Danny Patterson surged forward and saw his goalbound effort deflected agonisingly past the post.

Robinson had to make a point blank save to preserve his side’s clean sheet whilst the Robins were unable to add to their tally with Watson driving over in the last action of the afternoon.

Still it was a happy bunch that trooped from the field after a comfortable success with Shields able to boast a fantastic defensive record, having conceded just 25 goals in 24 outings, 12 less than any other club in the division.

North Shields: Robinson, Hughes, Patterson, Dunn (Watson 64 mins), Bowlt, Harmison, Luccock (Livermore 64 mins), Blandford, Holmes, Hay, Wright (Douglas 64 mins). Subs not used: Gordon, McAlindon.

North Shields face a double header with Hebburn Town, hosting the south Tynesiders in a league encounter on Saturday (kick-off 3pm at Ralph Gardner Park), then crossing the Tyne for an Ernest Armstrong cup tie on Tuesday, January 17 (7.30pm).