GRAHAM Fenton could not hide his delight as his side turned on the style at Esh Winning to give the new Robins’ boss a dream debut in charge then three days later he was satisfied at his players’ never say never attitude as they grabbed a last-gasp point at Northallerton.
A James Luccock strike and a late Paul Watson header earned three points the Shieldsmen deserved at the Waterhouses Ground against Esh Winning whilst Luccock was again on target four minutes from the whistle at Northallerton’s Ainderby Road to give the Robins a lifeline with John Grey gloriously nodding in the leveller in stoppage time.
Fenton reflected: “I could not have asked for more from the lads at Esh.
“I was looking for enthusiasm and calibre and got an excellent response.
“We played some tremendous football along the floor, it was great to watch.
“Again, another good outfit in Northallerton, in contrast we didn’t show the same fluidity but our character shone through and to come away with a point in the end was a massive positive.”
Esh started the game above the Robins in the table but it was the Tynesiders who were soon on the ascendancy.
Adam Rowntree forced an early save from home keeper Carl Morris then a stretching Luccock all but turned in a Danny Patterson centre.
A stirring run from Rowntree ended with Adam Forster shooting inches wide but on 26 minutes Rowntree supplied Dean Holmes and, though Morris did well to parry, Luccock was lurking to jubilantly slot in the loose ball.
Home captain Ian Ward fired past the upright but most of the action was at the other end with Morris kept busy keeping out a Mark Rasmussen volley who was revelling in a right back role, and bravely blocking from Luccock.
Shields’ impressive young defender Danny Bowlt was unable to continue in the second half but the resultant reshuffle failed to upset the Robins rhythm.
Centre half Kevin Hughes was declared man of the match and he almost doubled his goal tally for the season as his header from a Luccock corner almost crept in.
Robins custodian Michael Robinson got down smartly to save from Craig Coates to keep his side in the driving seat.
Shields continued the strive for that second goal to make the points safe but found Morris in inspired form between the Esh posts as he thwarted Holmes following a scintillating run from the Robins forward.
Luccock was denied by a goalline clearance before Paul Watson celebrated his 100th appearance for the club by nodding in a Holmes cross in the 88th minute.
North Shields: Robinson, Rasmussen, Grey, Bowlt (Watson 46), Hughes, Dunn (captain), Luccock, Forster, Holmes, Rowntree (Hay 60), Patterson (Douglas 66). Subs not used: Bowman, Wright.
The Robins management team of Fenton and Andy Bowman had to reckon without four of the starters at Esh for the trip to North Yorkshire.
Out injured were keeper Michael Robinson and Danny Bowlt whilst Paul Dunn and Danny Patterson were unavailable.
Ryan Beal donned the gloves, Femi Akinbolu and Neil Baistow were the replacements at the back with Keith Douglas leading the side out.
Northallerton had recorded two cup wins this campaign at the Daren Persson Stadium but Shields had come out on top by 2-0 in the league clash.
The Yorkshire outfit’s last three fixtures had all been against promotion contenders and they defeated both Hebburn and Morpeth whilst drawing with Gillford Park so Fenton was expecting a tough test.
As it turned out Northallerton looked to be coasting, two up with only minutes left, just as Shields had done on their last visit to Ainderby Road, that match also ending 2-2.
The Robins fell behind with only 11 minutes on the clock when Peter Bulmer cut in to fire wide of Beal.
Beal then did well to push aside a Bulmer header with both Gavin Parkin and Colin Anderson off target as the hosts pressed.
Shields’ only real opportunity in the opening half came after 35 minutes when Douglas released Rowntree but home keeper Stephen Craggs was out quickly to gather.
Rowntree was looking lively for the Shieldsmen who had loud shouts for a spot kick for a handling offence midway through the second period.
It looked all over when centre half Craig Winter powered in a header for his side’s second on 73 minutes but there was to be a sting in the tail.
Holmes went close with a solo effort before his centre found substitute Luccock who drilled in a shot that Craggs got to but couldn’t keep out.
Then, with time running out, the Robins were in raptures as Douglas swung over a free kick and Grey rose like a salmon to head home.
North Shields: Beal, Baistow, Grey, Rasmussen, Hughes (Bowman 90), Akinbolu (Hay 46), Rowntree, Watson (Luccock 27), Holmes, Douglas, Forster. Subs (not used) Wright, Robinson. Man of the match: Adam Rowntree.
On Saturday North Shields play their penultimate fixture at home to Chester-le-Street.
Kick-off at Ralph Gardner Park is 3pm.
The Robins’ last match is away to Thornaby on Saturday, April 28.