The Robins bounced back after two defeats to silence some doubters with a stirring success after 90 pulsating minutes against Norton & Stockton Ancients.
The defeat at Seaham was the first for the Shieldsmen after 13 straight wins whilst the midweek League Cup exit at lowly Brandon by 1-0 was unexpected, but it was a less than ‘full strength’ side that took the field.
Exactly 45 years ago North Shields celebrated a Wembley triumph plus a league and cup double – since then their successes as a Northern League club have been limited as they flirted in the NCEL and Wearside competitions.
Northern League Cup victors in 1972, Northumberland Senior Cup victories in 1966, 1976 and 1979 plus FA Cup glory at Halifax under Peter Flaherty and league runners-up with Jim Pearson at the helm stand out.
This season Graham Fenton’s lads remain on course for a memorable league and cup double.
It’s all to play for with still five clubs plying for the three promotion places with Shields having already beaten Jarrow Roofing twice, lost twice to Seaham and West Allotment and Heaton Stannington still to play.
Midfield dynamo Adam Forster returned to the fray against bogey side Norton – he went on to earn man of the match ratings as his side completed the double.
Dean Holmes and Michael McKeown were both still ruled out through injury, but front runner Dan Smart bravely took to the field despite being forced to retire from the action at Brandon.
Robins hot-shot Gareth Bainbridge had sound claims for a spot kick turned down early on, but just after the half hour mark Smart and Bainbridge combined well and when the ball came out Kieran Wrightson unleashed a stinging low drive that took the faintest of touches to flash past David Knight in the visitors goal.
That lead lasted barely two minutes as Norton full back Dan O’Brien’s spectacular effort gave Tom Courtney, donning the home gloves, no chance whatsoever.
The game exploded ten minutes into the second period as Norton defender Marcus Laing handled a goalbound Smart shot leaving the referee little option but to send him off and award a penalty.
Knight kept out Bainbridge’s kick but was helpless as centre back John Parker powerfully headed in a John Grey corner at the far post to restore the Shields’ advantage on 67 minutes.
Again, though, the hosts conceded quickly, but just how a blatant foul on Shields skipper Kevin Hughes went unchecked and Nick Martin was allowed to tuck the ball away was a big talking point.
Eight minutes from the whistle the Daren Perrson Stadium erupted as Bainbridge wasn’t to be denied, played in by Phil Robinson, he slotted past the keeper with aplomb for what proved the decider.
Knight somehow kept out two efforts from substitute Dean Walker to sustain the tension before the Shieldsmen could finally revere three precious points.
North Shields: Courtney, Elliott (Donnison 52,) Grey, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Scope (P Robinson 65), Forster, Bainbridge, Smart, Wrightson (Walker 75). Subs (not used) Hook, M Robinson.
Following a midweek match against Thornaby, North Shields head to Tow Law Town on Saturday (3pm) then host Willington with more points at stake on Wednesday, March 12 (7.30pm).