NORTH Shields FC moved with four points of second placed Guisborough with three games in hand as they stretched their impressive unbeaten run with a 2-0 success at home to Horden on Tuesday night.
The Robins have lost only once at the Daren Persson Stadium in the league all season, and that was in the opening day fixture against table-topping Newton Aycliffe.
On Tuesday night, a goal in each half from Andy Hay and skipper Keith Douglas – his 18th of the campaign – sealed another three points against a Horden side that did the Robins a favour at the weekend by taking points off fifth placed Marske United.
Shields fielded the same starting eleven that drew 1-1 at Newton Aycliffe, whilst only Horden keeper Grant Herbert plus defenders Martin Langley and Kevin Buddy, who played for the Welfare side when the two clubs met earlier in the season, with the Robins winning 2-0, turned out in the return fixture.
Herbert blocked from Hay early on but, at the other end, only a goal line clearance from Jonathan Hall rescued the hosts, the full back doing well to get back after Adam Croft had been allowed to round keeper Michael Robinson.
Brian Honour’s men were looking dangerous opponents and Mark Robinson only just failed to get a decisive touch to a through ball.
Shields began to find their rhythm as the half wore on and, after Douglas twice went close, they grabbed a crucial advantage just before the half hour mark.
Mark Rasmussen’s superbly flighted free kick was met by Hay, who rose above his marker, and his header floated over stranded keeper Herbert.
Before the break the keeper kept out angled drives from James Luccock and Hay, but they were denied a second goal with a tight offside flag ruling out a Douglas chip after Rasmussen had touched on a long Michael Robinson clearance.
Michael Pattison came on as a second half substitute and had a big say in his side’s 55th minute second goal.
Receiving a telling through ball from Paul Watson, he advanced up the left flank before picking out Douglas to slot home a quality goal.
With Watson and Rasmussen dictating matters in the middle of the park, Shields continued to play some majestic football, and Pattison saw a goalbound effort scrambled clear whilst Herbert saved low down from Watson.
The visitors never gave up and Robinson had to go full length to deny Jack Honour with Mark Robinson rifling inches over.
Pattison, though, was unlucky not to add a third for the Shieldsmen before the whistle, twice he was thwarted by Herbert, the latter with the last action of the game following a breathtaking solo run.
North Shields: M Robinson, Hall, Patterson, Livermore (Cartwright 74), S Robinson, Akinbolu, Rasmussen, Watson, Hay (Bowman 65), Douglas, Luccock (Pattison 46). Subs not used: Graham, Benson.
Anthony Woodhouse’s men are at Darlington RA on Saturday, 3pm kick-off, then entertain Washington on Tuesday, January 25, with a 7.30pm kick-off.