Shields still have title ambitions despite defeat

North Shields' Jack Donnison holds off a challenge from a West Auckland player. Picture by Ian Warde.

North Shields' Jack Donnison holds off a challenge from a West Auckland player. Picture by Ian Warde.

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North Shields are still in the First Division title hunt despite suffering a third successive home league defeat.

The Robins were invincible throughout 2014 when points were at stake at the Daren Persson Stadium but since the turn of the year they have yet to find the net in 270 minutes on home soil.

But there are no such problems in the Vase journey as both Consett and Phoenix Sports have been seen off by 4-1 scorelines.

It is still so tight at the top with leaders West Auckland overcoming their own sticky patch to rack up the three points.

Who could blame the Shieldsmen if their thoughts were elsewhere on Saturday with boss Graham Fenton eyeing up his side’s last eight opponents in the FA Vase.

They will face Erith and Belvedere who won 3-2 at Holbeach United to host the Robins on Saturday, February 28.

Erith are second in the Southern Counties East League behind leaders Phoenix Sports, playing their games at Welling and have won 18 of their 23 league matches to date.

Shields centre half John Parker lined up against the club he turned out for in a Wembley final and left sided defender Marc Lancaster returned affer his injury in the warm-up at Ashington but the midfield duo of Adam Forster and Michael McKeown sat this one out.

After a cautious opening West Auckland took a 15th minute lead when ex-Gateshead man Steven Richardson latched onto a through ball to finish clinically, giving Chris Bannon no chance.

Ben Richardson showed good skills to test Dan Lowson in the visitors goal but the Tynesiders suffered a blow when Bannon, who has performed well all season, misjudged a David Gordon corner and only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net.

Just before the turnaround a surging run from Dean Holmes gave Denver Morris an opportunity at the far post but Lowson reacted quickly to smother from the Shields front man.

Gareth Bainbridge had a goal disallowed by a marginal offside decision straight on the resumption and whilst the hosts were agrieved moments later Alex Francis struck at the other end to nod in his side’s third.

Shields kept going right to the end and Lowson saved a Parker header then tipped over a superb attempt from lively substitute James Luccock but there was to be no consolation goal for the Robins and indeed only a brave block by Bannon thwarted West striker Mattie Moffat of a fourth.

North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Lancaster, Coppen, Parker, Hughes (Carr 72), Morris (Day 60), Richardson, Bainbridge, Wrightson (Luccock 60), Holmes. Subs (not used) Elliott, Robinson.

Shields are at Consett on Saturday, 3pm kick off.