THE Robins put aside their faltering league form to produce the result of the round in the Brooks Mileson Northern League Cup with an awe-inspiring performance to stun first division hosts Newcastle Benfield.
Skipper Paul Dunn’s winner with only four minutes of extra time remaining sealed a majestic display that earned the Shieldsmen a trip to Bedlington Terriers in the quarter-final.
Benfield, with Perry Briggs at the helm for the first time, applied some early pressure and both Paul Antony and Shaun Bell forced smart saves from Michael Robinson.
Shields proved resilient and threatened themselves as Dean Holmes cut in to fire inches wide on the half hour.
Defences were on top at this stage but the second period unwound into a thrilling end to end affair.
On 61 minutes the Robins took the lead when a thunderous drive from the impressive Adam Rowntree rattled the crossbar but Mark Sheeran was lurking to nod in the rebound to jubilantly record his first goal for his new club.
The advantage lasted just 11 minutes with Antony following up to tuck away the equaliser after Robinson had parried the initial effort.
Both sides strove to win it in normal time with Shaun McAvoy testing Robinson then, at the other end, a Holmes rocket flew past the post.
Anthony Woodhouse’s men who had earlier lost the influential Danny Patterson through injury suffered another blow when centre half James Harmison hobbled off seven minutes into the extra period but the tension remained at fever pitch and the outcome on a knife edge.
It continued a pulsating tie with home keeper Andrew Grainger holding onto Scott Blandford’s low shot whilst Sheeran all but touched in a Holmes cross and the Robins surviving a late scare when, following a corner, the ball cannoned off the bar.
The drama wasn’t quite over and, with penalty kicks looming, Sheeran cleverly directed a John Grey free kick into the path of Dunn and his cool finish ensured the Shieldsmen could celebrate in a match to savour.
The full draw for the quarter-final is: Spennymoor v Sunderland RCA; Consett v West Auckland; Team Northumbria v Billingham Synthonia; Bedlington v North Shields.
North Shields: Robinson, Hughes, Patterson (Grey 44 mins), Dunn, Harmison (Bowlt 97 mins), Watson, Rowntree (Gordon 82 mins), Blandford, Holmes, Sheeran, Wright. Subs not used: Douglas, Rasmussen.
On Saturday, Andy Hay galvanised the Robins upon his introduction to the fray and his late strike secured a share of the spoils, the front runner agonisingly close to winning it for his side in stoppage time.
However the resultant point in the 2-2 draw with Brandon United at the Daren Persson Stadium hardly enhanced the Shieldsmen’s already slim prospects of promotion.
Boss Anthony Woodhouse was disappointed: “After such a sterling performance in the cup this simply was not good enough,” he said.
The Robins are rapidly losing pace with the other promotion contenders who seem to keep on churning out results.
However, with plenty points still to play for and a chance to progress further in the league cup, there’s still time for a stirring run-in.
It was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show with the Robins.
A Jeckyl and Hyde outfit in view of the alarming diversity between their form home and away.
On their travels they can really turn it on but, at Ralph Gardner Park a battling Brandon side matched them all the way.
Shields overcame a lethargic opening to take a 29th minute lead through a Dean Holmes penalty after the Shields top-scorer had been upended by keeper Rhys Jobling.
However, an unmarked Mark Ferguson nodded in a corner to level before the break.
Jobling did well to thwart Scott Blandford and Paul Dunn before the lowly Durham side shocked Shields on 78 minutes when Owen Lancaster’s free kick clattered the crossbar for Craig Mountain to pounce onto the loose ball.
Hay roused the hosts and, in a frantic finale, Jobling superbly saved from John Grey with James Luccock and Hay both going desperately close before the whistle.
North Shields have secured the services of Adam Forster, a young central midfielder from Blyth Spartans, for the remainder of the season.
The Robins journey to the west coast on Saturday to take on Whitehaven, kick-off 3pm.
Supporters are welcome to travel on the team coach (space permitting) – for details please contact any club official.
On Wednesday, March 28 Shields host Horden WC (7.30pm).