JUST as they did last pre-season North Shields FC came out on top against their near neighbours Whitley Bay FC.
In an entertaining spectacle, played out in front of a healthy crowd at the Daren Persson Stadium at Ralph Gardner Park, the Shieldsmen recorded an identical scoreline to that 12 months earlier against Whitley Bay.
Paul Watson and Mark Rasmussen who scored the Robins’ goals last time round were both again in the starting line-up whilst Bay started with Paul Chow and Ian Lee up front.
Shields struck as early as the fourth minute when Stewart Wright latched on to a through ball, cleverly shrugged off the challenge of a defender before laying a pass into the path of Paul Gordon, who coolly converted.
Wright, son of Ralph a Robins’ centre-half between 1979-81 who netted four times, was proving a handful for the visitors and was only inches away from extending the hosts advantage but, midway through the first period, Paul Robinson’s flag kick was powerfully headed in by former Consett player Gary Ormston for the leveller.
Robinson drove just over and Michael Hammond, donning the Shields gloves in the first 45 minutes, had to push an effort round the post to retain parity.
After the turnaround Wright collected from Kevin Hughes, supplied Gordon, who appealed in vain for a spot kick after appearing to be pushed.
The winner came on the 55 minute mark much to the delight of the home fans when Chris Douglas, who last turned out for Shields in 2007, delivered a fine centre that Wright jubilantly headed home.
Play swung from end to end as the half wore on with Whitley gaining a succession of late corners but Shields’ number one keeper Michael Robinson, recovered from injury and on as a second half substitute, was not to be beaten and whilst the Robins defended resolutely they were so close to a third with five minutes remaining as Wright nodded a Watson centre just past the post.
Against another first division side Sunderland RCA two days earlier chances were few and far between but a lone strike from the prolific Andy Jennings two minutes into the second half determined the outcome.
Defender Kevin Hughes led the Shields side out and Michael Hammond replaced Michael Robinson in goal but team boss Anthony Woodhouse was lacking key men Keith Douglas, Danny Patterson, James Luccock, Joe Elliott and Robbie Livermore.
Paul Gordon could have had a spot kick early on and was unlucky not to equalise with seconds remaining when he struck the upright, the ball rebounding into the arms of a relieved keeper.
Earlier the Robins had travelled to Filtrona Park to hand out a 4-0 trouncing in the cross-Tyne derby against South Shields.
In a lively opening Stephen Ramsey was off target for the Mariners before North Shields began to get a stranglehold on the game.
South Shields keeper John Ball, who also faced the Robins playing for Whitley Bay, had to rescue his side on a number of occasions whilst Anthony Woodhouse’s lads had a goal disallowed just before half time for an alleged foul as John Grey’s corner kick sailed straight in.
The Robins turned on the style to dominate the second period and after ace marksman Keith Douglas had notched the first goal, Paul Gordon made it two after he closed down the keeper’s clearance and managed to force the ball over the line.
Douglas then took advantage of a defensive blunder to make it 3-0 and North Shields further stretched their lead over the shell shocked hosts when a deep cross from Gordon was met by the head of Michael Rush whose glancing header found the net.
The Mariners tried in vain for a consolation with both David Colvin and ex-Robin Ryan Page both off target.
North Shields, following a midweek trip to Northern League top dogs Spennymoor, have an attractive friendly on Saturday when Gala Fairydean from the Scottish Borders travel to Tyneside for a 3pm kick-off.
Then it’s Annfield Plain away on Monday, August 1, 7pm, with Blyth Spartans coming to North Shields on Wednesday, August 3, 7.30pm.