North Shields secured another three points on Saturday to maintain their advantage at the top of the table over ex-manager Graham Fenton’s South Shields.
The Robins proved just how they can adapt as they were fluent in the first period and a two-goal lead was scant reward for their dominance, whilst when Aycliffe reduced the deficit, Jon McDonald’s lads had to dig deep and show true resolve.
The Shieldsmen made changes to the side that eased past Tow Law in the League Cup with centre back John Parker, skipper in that game, unable to travel.
Kevin Hughes once more led the side out with Peter Glen-Ravenhill, the match-winner in last season’s tense encounter at Moore Lane, named on the bench.
The Robins were flowing from the off but it took 18 minutes for the opener, but one well worth waiting for as Dean Holmes once more tormented the home backline and Ryan Carr volleyed in another beauty.
The much travelled John Campbell drove just past the post as Aycliffe tried to respond, but on the 28-minute mark the Robins were chirping again with Lee Mason making great progress up the right flank with Holmes lurking at the far post to jubilantly tuck away the cross at the far post.
Centre forward Dan Wilson was leading the line well and he was the provider for another chance, but this time top scorer Mason nodded just wide.
Shields were still surging as the second half unwound, but the South Durham outfit clawed their way back when they were awarded a spot kick as a sprawling Marc Lancaster was forced to handle and Campbell converted.
It was nip and tuck for a while with Holmes agonisingly only inches away from giving the Shieldsmen some breathing space, but the commitment from McDonald’s side shone.
The back line once more stood firm with more excellent handling from Kyle Hayes and the Robins were buoyant on the whistle.
North Shields: Hayes, Donnison, Lancaster, McKeon (Morris 83), Coppen, Hughes, Carr, Ormston, Wilson, Mason (Forster 74), Holmes (Summerly 88). Subs not used: Taylor, Glen-Ravenhill.
Next up for North Shields is cup action with Heaton Stannington coming to the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday as the holders embark on this season’s Northumberland Senior Cup trail.
Shields were sensational when they triumphed 4-0 at Seaham Red Star recently and it is the return fixture on Saturday. Seven days later it is the crunch FA Vase tie at home to Shildon.