FOR a third successive season North Shields’ dream of progress in the FA Cup has been dashed at the first hurdle after a replay.
In recent years the Robins have secured valiant draws at Newcastle Benfield and Penrith only to fall at the re-match.
This time, after a succession of drawn encounters with Birtley, there had to be a winner, and is was Scott Oliver’s outfit who earned a home tie with West Auckland.
It was little consolation to Graham Fenton’s lads that they played the majority of the football in Tuesday night’s replay after Saturday’s 1-1 draw, and that Birtley’s tactics, if not pretty, were certainly effective.
Shields were hampered when Dean Holmes, who had tormented the home rearguard the last time he turned out at this ground, was unable to start.
His place up front was taken by Adam Rowntree, who went on to win the man of the match rating, working so hard with little support.
After a lacklustre opening by both teams, the Shieldsmen warmed up and in a seven-minute spell midway through the first period unleashed four fine efforts on the home goal, any one of which could have given them the advantage.
A Ben Richardson drive flashed past the post with keeper Neal Busey well beaten; Paul Watson’s dipping effort cleared the bar; Rowntree’s low shot was well held by the keeper; and John Hook joined in, rifling inches wide.
Birtley first threatened when Dan Smart found space but was denied by a brave block by Michael Robinson.
But they did take the lead with only their second serious attack on 31 minutes.
Shields were still disputing an offside decision given against Adam Forster, who was clear, when play switched to the other end and Jack Honour headed in a left wing cross.
The second half proved a frenetic affair, but one which became scrappy and disjointed.
Shields pushed forward but created little with the best opportunities falling to the hosts, with Robinson denying Kevin Dixon.
It mattered little other than to give the scoreline a flattering look that Smart buried a penalty deep into injury time.
North Shields: M Robinson, Hook (Hall 57 mins), Patterson, Akinbolu, Harmison (P Robinson 70 mins), Elliott, Richardson, Forster, Rowntree, Douglas (Bowman (85), P Watson. Subs not used: M Watson, Holmes, McCafferty, Fenton.