Shieldsmen set record on their travels

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WELL they’ve done it.

Statistics have seemingly confirmed that after going nap at Ryton, the Robins have clocked up 24 successive away league games without defeat, a Northern League record.

Last beaten on their travels at Whickham on October 18, 2010, the Shieldsmen have returned home with three points under their belts 15 times coupled with nine draws.

Not only that but North Shields have completed the full calendar year of 2011 (20 matches) unbeaten on opposition soil.

Three clubs in relatively recent times – Blyth Spartans in the mid 1970s and Gretna and Whickham in the early 1990s have held the record – until now.

Unfortunately for the Robins their next three league fixtures are all on Tyneside where they have proved generous hosts to visiting outfits.

There is hope the supporters can give the team extra encouragement at the Daren Persson Stadium where Crook Town are next up on Saturday for what is always a feisty encounter.

After last Saturdary’s Kingsley Park trip where they beat Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 5-2, Robins team boss Anthony Woodhouse declared: “I thought we again dominated the game, passing the ball well against a quite physical Ryton side.

“All the lads acquitted themselves superbly, with Andy Hay awesome up front.”

Shields came up against some former players, notably defender Ross Atkinson, Ryton Arnot and Graham Wilson, now Ryton captain and a former Robins skipper.

Woodhouse, meanwhile, still had to reckon without the injured Danny Bowlt but Mark Rasmussen made a welcome return in the middle of the park replacing Scott Blandford, the last-gasp hero against Thornaby, who failed a late fitness test but still was able to take a place on the bench.

In the event, Blandford did come on and scored a beauty, his side’s fourth as Shields went on to hit five for the third time this campaign.

Darlington RA were earlier despatched by the same scoreline whilst Ryton lost 5-1 in the reverse fixture back in October.

Robbie Livermore was off target in the first minute after being set up by Paul Gordon as Shields swarmed all over their hosts.

A Rasmussen corner saw Gareth McAlindon’s shot deflected behind and, from a second flag kick taken by Danny Patterson, Hay’s flick was only inches wide.

It was 1-0 though after 14 minutes, a great finish from Hay who lobbed keeper Mark Fish.

The lead lasted only eight minutes when a free kick crept past everyone to float into the net, the strike credited to Dan Briggs.

A Hay cross was coolly drilled home by Rasmussen to restore the advantage then it was 3-1 following more magic from Hay, who was running the defenders ragged, this time laying the ball off for Paul Gordon, who made no mistake.

Barely had the celebrations died down before Adam Rowntree was allowed time and space to reduce the deficit with a clinical finish.

Right on the interval Shields couldn’t quite believe how they weren’t awarded a spot kick when Patterson was blatantly pushed but they continued on the ascendancy as the second half unwound.

Fish saved from Livermore, Hay and Gordon then Dean Holmes rattled the crossbar.

The home keeper again did well to thwart Blandford before Gordon’s dismissal reduced the visitors to ten men.

Despite their numerical disadvantage Shields were only troubled when Michael Robinson superbly tipped over an effort from Andrew Peacock and added to their tally through Blandford then Holmes, who slotted in after receiving from Keith Douglas.

North Shields: Robinson, Hughes, Patterson, McAlindon, Harmison, Dunn, Livermore (Luccock 59), Rasmussen (Blandford 59), Gordon, Hay (Douglas 73), Holmes. Subs not used: Wright, Grey.

Last season Crook put a spoke in the Robins promotion push when they sneaked a 1-0 verdict but Shields, through a Keith Douglas goal, exacted revenge at Millfield earlier in this campaign. Kick off is 3pm at Ralph Gardner Park.

West Allotment Celtic are Boxing Day visitors (noon) with Alnwick Town travelling on January 2 for a 1pm kick-off.