NORTH Shields’ 13-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end as fellow promotion hopefuls Northallerton went nap on Saturday
Shields travelled boasting the division’s best defensive record – a mere 21 goals yielded in as many matches – but they trooped off at the end of this encounter a well beaten outfit.
It could have been a different outcome had Paul Watson’s blistering drive on the stroke of half-time gone in instead of rattling the crossbar for, despite trailing 3-0, that would have set the scene for, maybe, a rousing fight back.
Shields last conceded five in a Northern League fixture against another North Yorkshire side, Stokesley, in December 2009, which ended in a similar scoreline.
Graham Fenton, then Anthony Woodhouse’s number two, played that day and the Robins boss will be seeking the same kind of response from his players.
Then, as is now, their next game was Washington at home and the Shieldsmen triumphed 1-0 thanks to a strike from Andy Hay, they then went on to win their following five matches – including a 2-1 verdict over Northallerton.
The Shields squad, who last managed some action on the pitch against Ryhope CW on January 12, were pretty much at full strength with Femi Akinbolu making his 100th appearance for the club.
On a dead and bobbly surface not conducive to flowing football, the Tynesiders still started brightly but fell behind on 19 minutes when Adam Emson was on hand to convert a corner at the far post.
Town keeper James Briggs blocked from Ben Richardson but Shields were caught out on the half hour by a crossfield ball and James Bowman rifled home, then Emson made it three six minutes from the break.
Shell-shocked Shields strove for a life-line, and a good move involving Kieran Wrightson and Rob Nolan saw Dean Holmes drive inches over.
Then came Watson’s thunderous effort cannon off the woodwork.
Adam Forster was the Robins’ best first half performer but he was forced to limp off after 53 minutes’ then Wrightson was also replaced.
Substitutes Adam Rowntree and Michael McKeown instigated a rally and the deficit was reduced on 61 minutes as Holmes tortured the home rearguard up the left flank, rounded Briggs to set up Rowntree, whose shot crept inside the post.
Northallerton were down to ten men with Alex Caisley instantly red-carded for a two-footed tackle on Robins skipper Dan Patterson, so Shields pushed Akinbolu up front in a bid to salvage something from the afternoon.
Holmes was the Shields danger-man and Briggs did well to cling on to one effort, then Rowntree was just unable to turn in another centre.
Two home goals in the final nine minutes though dampened the Shields spirit, the first a Danny Shoulder penalty, then a fifth strike from Stephen Butterworth.
Robins assistant manager Andy Bowman said: “It was a disappointing day. We had been on a good run but in the first half we, as a team, were unwilling to match them at the ‘ugly’ side of the game.
“We didn’t defend balls into the box well enough or retain possession in key areas.
“At 3-1 we pushed players up and got caught doing so, but we had to try to get something out of the game.”
North Shields: McCafferty, Elliott, Patterson, Richardson, Harmison (Akinbolu, Wrightson (McKeown 55), Watson, Nolan, Forster (Rowntree 53), Holmes. Subs not used: Hook, Douglas, M Robinson.
Five successive home matches now await Fenton’s men. After Washington (Wednesday), Brandon United are the visitors to the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday, (3pm).
On Wednesday, February 13, West Allotment Celtic make the short journey, Esh Winning come on Saturday, February 16, with Shields entertaining Bishop Auckland in the Northern League Cup on Wednesday, February 20.