Bainbridge strikes late to see off old club Ashington
Gareth Bainbridge's last-gasp winner helped North Shields get back to winning ways on Tuesday evening as they overcame ten-man Ashington in stoppage time at Woodhorn Lane.
After battling to a draw in their previous game against Bishop Auckland, Shields travelled up to Northumberland in search of all three points.
With three games to play in the space of a week, Graham Fenton opted to rest Jack Donnison, Ben Richardson Peter Glen-Ravenhill and Daniel Wilson.
Their places were taken by Brad Brooking, Gary Ormston, Ryan McGorrigan and Ryan Carr respectively.
The visitors started tentatively on a heavy pitch as Ashington probed for an early opening, a Damien Stevens shot was deflected and Ben Harmison headed over.
However, the Robins soon found their feet, creating three good chances for Bainbridge up top.
The forward was inches away from getting a foot on a McGorrigan cross, and when he did receive the ball to feet from Michael McKeown on the edge of the area, his effort was straight at goalkeeper Conor Grant.
The third opportunity on 14 minutes once again came via a low delivery from the flank, Lee Mason the supplier on this occasion. Bainbridge was well placed to finish, but instead swept well wide of the far post.
Curtis Coppen stung the palms of Grant as Shields enjoyed a good spell in the Colliers’ half.
Andrew Johnson twice threatened for the home side, the dangerous wideman seeing shots blocked on two occasions, the second veering only a yard or two off target.
The ball spent plenty of time in both boxes, but dogged defending and poor touches in crucial areas kept the game scoreless at half-time, Coppen in particular throwing himself into a magnificent challenge to deny Scott Gunn an opening in the area.
A tight contest tilted in Shields’ favour seven minutes into the second half.
Ryan Bell, already in the book for a heavy challenge on Carr in the first half, scythed down Mason as the number ten moved towards goal, giving the referee no option but to dismiss the centre half.
North Shields set about capitalising on the numerical advantage on the pitch, Bainbridge skying over with the goal gaping, and a dangerous flowing move halted in the box by an offside flag.
However, Ashington still possessed a threat on the counter in the shape of Johnson.
The winger had lifted over on the hour mark, but was set to hit the target when he sped past Brooking and into range, only to be denied by a fine stop at his feet from the otherwise untested McCafferty.
Counterpart Grant, meanwhile, was in the form of his life, and had to be at his very best again to deny Shields once more.
Bainbridge found Peter Glen-Ravenhill six yards out with a square delivery, and though the substitute got a toe on the ball, a fine reflex save from Grant somehow kept it out.
Glen-Ravenhill went close again with a drilled shot across goal, but Grant was again Ashington’s savour ten minutes from time, getting behind Dan Wilson’s close-range strike.
It looked as though the keeper and his hardworking defence had salvaged a point, until McKeown’s whipped ball into the near post was bundled home by Gareth Bainbridge, to the delight of his team-mates and the travelling support.
Shields will return to action within a matter of days, hosting Norton & Stockton Ancients at the Daren Persson Stadium on Thursday evening.
Ashington: Grant, Taylor (Trodd), Christensen, Dixon, Bell, Grieve, Downey, Gunn (Dunn), B Harmison, Stevens (J Harmison), Johnson.
North Shields: McCafferty, Brooking (Wilson), Summerly, McKeown, Coppen, Hughes, McGorrigan (Glen-Ravenhill), Ormston, Bainbridge, Mason, Carr (Richardson).