Robins' FA Vase hopes blown away by Morpeth
Hopes of a return to Wembley for North Shields were dashed at a windswept Daren Persson Stadium on Monday night.
The gale-force wind ruined any chance of an enjoyable spectacle, and visitors Morpeth Town clearly felt beforehand that the pitch’s condition was unplayable.
With Craik Park once more out of action, the tie was switched to North Tyneside, and 479 hardy souls turned out to watch.
The Robins had been left in limbo waiting for their opposition to finally conclude their previous-round tie and hadn’t played since their replay win at Runcorn Town in the last round.
Graham Fenton’s lads certainly enjoyed their day in the sun at London’s Wembley Stadium in May, but now Morpeth, including ex-Robins Michael Chilton and the injured David Hiftle in their squad, are in with a chance of similar glory.
They travel to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire on Saturday as they bid to claim the trophy about to be handed over by North Shields.
Certainly, the Northumbrians celebrated as if they had won the FA Vase already on Monday after staging a smash-and-grab raid.
North Shields took the field without key centre-half John Parker and influential midfield maestro Michael McKeown but encamped themselves in the Morpeth half for the first 45 minutes.
So strong was the wind that the visitors barely crossed the halfway line, though they did well to rustle up a couple of flag kicks.
The league high-flyers, currently in third place behind Shildon and Guisborough, were severely under the cosh, but goalkeeper Karl Dryden, their saviour against South Shields, was once more in inspired form.
Saving superbly to thwart Gareth Bainbridge on a couple of occasions, plus efforts from new signing Lee Mason and skipper Kevin Hughes, he just about single-handedly kept his side afloat and still in the tie at half-time.
Dean Holmes had been toying with the Morpeth defenders, but that vital touch of fortune in front of goal just wasn’t to be had on the night.
That was summed up in the 32nd minute when Morpeth’s captain, the experienced Keith Graydon, was red-carded, but Dryden kept out Bainbridge’s resulting spot kick.
On resumption of play and despite now being against the elements, Shields continued to create openings, but they were rocked on 52 minutes as Sean Taylor struck with a fine effort following a quick break.
That heartened the 10 men of Morpeth, and Chris Swailes should have given them a cushion, but incredibly he headed over a gaping net.
The Morpeth back line stood firm as Shields huffed and puffed, and though an equaliser looked on the cards at any time, Morpeth’s progress was effectively secured 14 minutes from the whistle as Lee McAndrew profited from a defender slipping in the mud to pounce and deliver a clinical finish.
North Shields: McCafferty, Donnison, Summerly, Ormston, Coppen, Hughes, McGorrigan, Richardson (Carr 66 mins), Bainbridge (Wilson 55), Mason, Holmes (Luccock 70). Substitutes (not used): Lancaster, Bannon.
On Saturday, North Shields return to league action with a trip to Ryhope to take on Sunderland RCA at 3pm.
The Wearsiders were themselves knocked out of the FA Vase last weekend.
After that, next Wednesday, the delayed Northumberland Football Association Senior Cup tie with Ashington is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick-off at the Daren Persson Stadium.