Robins share the points with Lawyers

North Shields keeper Thomas Courtney punches the ball clear. Picture by Ian Warde.
North Shields keeper Thomas Courtney punches the ball clear. Picture by Ian Warde.

The Robins were certainly chirpy after their Northumberland Senior Cup success at Morpeth three days earlier but they had to settle for a share of the spoils against a Tow Law outfit, themselves in the promotion frame.

Shields still top the table as none of the sides immediately below them won and left back John Grey’s second-half equaliser was no more than Graham Fenton’s lads deserved.

Having already dumped Northern League leaders Shildon out of the League Cup, the Robins claimed another first division scalp at Morpeth’s Craik Park thanks to Dan Smart’s delicate dink, from a Dean Walker assist, on the stroke of half time.

Shields were quickly out of the blocks and the Highwaymen could quite easily have been one down and a man short inside the opening seconds had a foul on Smart inside the area been spotted.

Smart’s strike settled it, Tom Courtney between the posts was not unduly troubled by the home attackers and some determined defending saw the Robins now look forward to the quarter final draw.

The same 16 man squad took part against Tow Law – rotated – but trailed from the third minute.

Lewis Wing’s drive took a wicked deflection, Courtney did well to parry, but Dean Thexton was first to react and knock in the loose ball.

The signs weren’t good, Tow Law had won 2-0 in the corresponding fixture towards the end of the last campaign and between 1979-1989 when the sides had met previously the Lawyers had triumphed in nine of the ten league matches at Shields and drawn the other.

One has to go back to the 1978-79 season to record a Robins home victory over the men from Ironworks Road, then it finished 5-1, Mally Moore grabbed a hat-trick, Peter Cartwright and Bobby Holmes were also on the scoresheet and Wembley hero Micky Morgan was in goal.

Tow Law this time looked confident following their early advantage and Shields suffered further misfortune with centre-half John Parker limping off and likely to be side-lined for a number of weeks.

Jo Elliott, though, switched into the middle, the hosts upped the tempo, Lawyers custodian Stephen Robinson brilliantly saved from Smart and Adam Scope as Shields forced a succession of corners with the half coming to a close.

On 53 minutes the leveller came and it was Grey who slotted in direct from a free kick to celebrate his first goal of the campaign though he was on target in pre-season.

It was game on now and with Adam Forster prominent despite his unfamiliar left-wing role Shields pressed for a winner.

Previously appearing assured, the Lawyers were now rattled as Michael Tait’s effort was agonisingly deflected behind then top scorer Gareth Bainbridge watched Robinson touch his goalbound header to safety.

Tow Law’s wing committed two horrendous challenges inside as many minutes but escaped with just a caution for the first, the visitors held firm and Thexton all but pinched full points in stoppage time with a volley inches wide.

North Shields: Courtney, Elliott, Grey, Richardson, Parker (Donnison 36), Hughes, Scope (Wrightson 86), Tait, Bainbridge, Smart (Walker 71), Forster. Subs (not used): P Robinson, M Robinson.

It’s FA Vase action at the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday as North Shields take on Crook Town, kick off 3pm.

Any replay would be at Crook’s Millfield Ground on Wednesday, October 23 (7.30pm), otherwise the Robins will be chasing points at Alnwick Town on that night (7.30pm), this fixture having been switched from the scheduled Tuesday date.