Two Douglas headers lift Shieldsmen’s promotion bid

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THE Robins’ promotion push is now back on track as two late Keith Douglas headers secured three priceless points at Seaham’s Town Park Ground.

It was the Shieldsmen’s first victory in six league matches but one that a spirited and determined performance merited, the players deserving massive credit for keeping going right to the end when it looked like that elusive goal just was not going to come.

Shields’ rock this season has been their mean defensive record, better than any other club in the division, and with keeper Michael Robinson again not being beaten, it was their tenth clean sheet of the campaign.

Up front Anthony Woodhouse’s men have not been prolific, though, and their tally of 60 goals scored is less than any other side in the top half of the table.

Nevertheless, Douglas’ brace ensured that the Robins have now picked up more points on their travels and from fewer games than secured at the Daren Persson Stadium.

The race for the third spot and elevation could go right to the wire, all the Robins can do now is try to win all remaining games and hope others slip up, but it is certainly all still to play for.

Next up for Shields are two home fixtures against 18th placed Brandon United on Saturday, kick-off 3pm at Ralph Gardner Park, then fifth top Hebburn Town in a ‘six-pointer’ on Wednesday, March 21, kick-off 7.30pm.

Remaining matches will see the Robins line up against Gillford Park (third) away, West Allotment Celtic (eighth) away, Esh Winning (ninth) away, Northallerton Town (11th) away, Whitehaven (12th) away, Thornaby (17th) away, Chester-le-Street (19th) home and Horden CW (21st) home.

On Saturday, lowly Seaham almost caught the Shieldsmen cold with Jordan Rungen rifling wide in the first minute, but it was not long before they settled back, seemingly content to try and frustrate the Tynesiders and employ time wasting tactics right from the off.

In keeper Ryan Graham they had a more than capable performer who twice early on tipped goalbound Dean Holmes efforts round the post.

It continued as one-way traffic with skipper Paul Dunn heading an Andy Wright corner over then turning provider with Paul Gordon nodding just wide at the far post.

Man of the match Wright crossed once more for the hard working Paul Watson to head over before the hosts posed only their second threat of the afternoon in the 52nd minute.

Robinson did well to touch aside Rungen’s header with the assured Femi Akinbolu clearing from the danger area.

Back to the other end and Mark Sheeran drove over after Graham flapped at a Mark Rasmussen free kick, then a stretching Gordon just couldn’t get a connection to a Rasmussen centre.

Substitute Douglas forced a point blank save from Graham, Dunn and James Harmison both went close with headers before the breakthrough came in the 85th minute.

Graham brilliantly blocked from Adam Rowntree but, when the ball came back in, Douglas judged his header to perfection and the Robins were cock-a-hoop.

The points were secured in stoppage time when Douglas headed a Holmes cross over the keeper to record his 52nd goal for the club in just 68 appearances.

Shields coach Andy Bowman said: “I thought it was a great result and one we fully warranted.

“We didn’t work hard enough in the first half when we didn’t have the ball we put that right after the break.

“Every player stuck to the task, we had to be patient and Keith Douglas took his chances really well.

“The substitutes showed a superb attitude when introduced and every player was part of the success.

“We’ve now got ten cup finals to play in the league.”

North Shields: Robinson, Hughes, Dunn, Rasmussen (Patterson 78), Akinbolu, Harmison, Gordon (Rowntree 72), Watson, Holmes, Sheeran (Douglas 63), Wright. Subs not used: McAlindon, Bowlt.

n Femi Akinbolu celebrated his seasonal debut but his first goal was not enough to retain his side’s interest in the Ernest Armstrong Cup as visitors Northallerton Town controversially edged the tie 2-1.

Craig Winter had equalised in the 55th minute before referee Peter Osgood gifted the Yorkshire outfit their passage by allowing Peter Bulmer to tap a free kick into an unguarded net.

The resultant furore saw cautions and a sending off with the match ending in farcical circumstances.