Big North-South divide exposed as Robins run riot
A sparkling first-half showing saw North Shields sweep into the quarter-finals of the Northern League Cup, claiming local bragging rights over rivals South Shields in the process.
A bumper crowd of 1,349 packed into Mariners Park to see the FA Vase holders take on division two’s champions-elect, with a place in the last eight up for grabs.
The visiting contingent were treated to a footballing masterclass in the opening 45 minutes, and though South Shields struck the woodwork three times after the break, the Robins comfortably saw out a memorable victory on the south side of the Tyne.
The hosts had to make do without star attraction Julio Arca as the ex-Middlesbrough midfielder was serving the first game of a four-match suspension.
Nevertheless, South Shields still fielded a strong starting 11, replete with some of the Northern League’s best-known names.
For his part, Graham Fenton named a bold side for the trip over the water.
Eschewing the usual 4-2-3-1 formation, the visitors opted to hand both Gareth Bainbridge and Daniel Wilson starts, a move which almost instantly paid dividends.
Within moments of kick-off, Wilson held off Darryl Hall and spread the play wide to Michael McKeown.
His bobbling cross should have been dealt with in the area, first by Michael Turner and then by former Robins’ full-back John Grey, but the ball found its way to Bainbridge towards the back post, the prolific No 9 applying the finish from close range.
Ben Richardson went close with a curling free-kick as the reds continued their bright start, keeping David Foley and Adam Sakr quiet while posing a threat on the break.
Roared on throughout by their vocal travelling support, the away fans had plenty more to shout about when Marc Lancaster doubled North Shields’ lead on 15 minutes.
Again, both forwards were involved, Wilson chipping the initial pass into the left channel for Dean Holmes, whose low ball across the box was flicked by Bainbridge into Lancaster’s path.
The full-back tucked away his first ever goal for the club from a matter of yards out, beating goalkeeper Gareth Young at his near post to put his side in full command early on.
Bainbridge could have doubled his personal tally ten minutes later when Kevin Hughes’ lofted diagonal ball found him free in the area, but he scuffed the volley off target.
Another fantastic aerial ball would prove to be the Mariners’ undoing on 34 minutes, all but killing off any chance of a South Shields recovery before the interval.
This time, it was Bainbridge who fed the ball towards the flank, and the waiting Lancaster, who picked out Wilson with a pinpoint 30-yard pass. Hands went up across the back four as the striker chested it down in the box, but the linesman’s flag stayed by his side.
Onside and in on goal, the 21-year-old expertly placed the ball far beyond the reach of Young, and it was a just reward for his exemplary earlier work.
Staring at a three-goal deficit, the hosts belatedly registered their first attempts on goal.
Foley pulled a shot across the face of goal, and his dangerous cross was pushed away by Chris Bannon six minutes later.
With the half drawing to a close, the ex-Hartlepool forward then spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to drag South Shields back into the tie.
A perfectly-timed chip from Robert Briggs found Foley in space ten yards from goal, but the in-form Bannon raced out to make a decisive block on the stroke of half-time.
As expected, South Shields attacked with renewed vigour in the second half.
Though Dan Wilson caused problems with a barnstorming run and wayward finish, the best chances were created by the claret-and-blues.
Stephen Ramsey’s close-range header looked goalbound until Bannon somehow denied the forward, a stunning reflex save tipping the ball onto the crossbar.
The goalkeeper was rooted to the spot as, from the following corner, another header was directed towards goal, but the ball struck the post a second time, before Sakr curled the rebound inches over the crossbar.
North Shields should have been home and hosed by the hour, only a controversial offside call preventing Bainbridge from converting an excellent McKeown through ball, while substitute Lewis Teasdale and John Grey both spurned half-chances at the other end.
The Robins’ goal had led something of a charmed life since the restart, and the woodwork would once again come to the visitors’ rescue.
Turner rose highest on this occasion, the latest header hitting the bar and coming back into play.
Red shirts swarmed around the ball in the area, preventing Teasdale from getting a clean shot away, while keeper Bannon took a blow to the face for his troubles, playing on despite suffering a suspected broken nose.
With 20 minutes left and little realistic chance of salvaging a result, South Shields faded, and the resilient Robins would threaten twice more.
An intelligent quick free-kick from Richardson slipped in substitute Ryan McGorrigan, whose shot from an ever-narrowing angle came back off the base of the post.
Lee Mason, another fresh introduction, also came close to getting his name on the score-sheet, Young getting fingertips to a rising shot from inside the area.
The Mariners’ top scorer, Warren Byrne, introduced early in the second period, almost pulled one back for the deflated hosts with a deflected free-kick in stoppage time.
It would have been scant consolation for the division two leaders, though, as they simply could not contend with a dangerous, confident Robins outfit in the first half.
The emphatic victory was Shields’ fifth on the bounce, with Bannon and the back four keeping four consecutive clean sheets in that period.
The Tynesiders will meet Bedlington Terriers in the League Cup quarter-final, but must turn their attention back to the league ahead of the weekend, with Consett set to visit the Daren Persson Stadium this Saturday.
You can view all of the goals from Tuesday night’s cup tie online at NSFCTV.
South Shields: Young, Hassan (Riding), Grey, Hall (Byrne), Turner, Briggs, Smith, Scroggins, Ramsey, Foley, Sakr (Teasdale).
North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Lancaster, McKeown, Coppen, Hughes, Glen-Ravenhill, Richardson, Bainbridge (McGorrigan), Wilson (Carr), Holmes (Mason).