Robins prepare for vital FA Vase clash

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All roads lead to the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday as North Shields bid to continue on the Wembley trail.

It is the last 16 of the FA Vase and the Shieldsmen come up against unbeaten Southern Counties East league leaders Phoenix Sports (3pm).

Whilst Shields had their home match with Jarrow Roofing called off on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch, Phoenix managed to steam on at the top of their table with a 4-0 success over Crowborough Town.

Long serving Shieldsman and now assistant boss Andy Bowman said: “It’s such a huge game for the club, they are obviously a bit of an unknown quantity but we need to respect them in view of their league position.

“We’ve surprised some this season with just how well we have progressed, all we can do is prepare properly and with hopefully a huge crowd behind us making a lot of noise then who knows.”

Unbeaten at home throughout 2014 Shields have stumbled a little as the new year has unfolded but who could possibly have imagined the position Graham Fenton’s lads now find themselves in.

North Shields are famed as the only Northumberland and last Northern League side to have lifted the prestigious FA Amateur cup at Wembley in 1969.

Since then however their success in national competitions has been limited.

A 1982 FA Cup win at Halifax Town thanks to a wonder Bede McCaffrey strike under the guidance of Peter Flaherty is always cherished as is the stirring FA Trophy run of 1983/4.

Player boss Jim Pearson was the inspiration as Shields saw off Willington and Morecambe in three epic ties – the 4-4 at Christie Park something special – then Workington and Durham City before bowing out at Barnet.

In the FA Vase the Robins, prior to last season, had only won three times and on each occasion against Hebburn.

Last season the Robins won 4-2 at Silsden with hotshot Gareth Bainbridge bagging a hat trick and Dean Walker also scoring then after a 2-2 draw with Crook, Shields lost 4-3 in the replay.

As Shields have progressed this campaign they have seen off Northallerton, Stokesley, AFC Emley, Sunderland RCA, Seaham Red Star and Consett.

Should the game be postponed or a replay necessary (after extra time) then that would be staged on Saturday, February 14, otherwise the Shieldsmen will resume Northern League duties with a home fixture with current leaders West Auckland.