Hay pearler enough for Robins

ANDY Hay’s dazzling 29th minute strike, his first goal of the campaign, lit up an otherwise drab 90 minutes at the Daren Persson Stadium as North Shields beat Alnwick Town 1-0.

Goals had flowed when the two sides met only days earlier at St James park, this time both defences tightened up and it was a lone goal that secured three precious points for the Robins.

It was never going to be easy against a struggling Alnwick side but one which had shown their battling credentials.

Hay’s effort, though, was worthy of winning any match, and Graham Fenton’s Robins are certainly chirping loudly at the moment, having chalked up a fifth victory in their last six outings.

The Shields heroes were at the back with the central pairing of Joe Elliott and Femi Akinbolu taking the plaudits as a second successive clean sheet on home soil was recorded.

The visitors enjoyed a fair share of first half possession but it was their custodian Brian Brooks who was the busier of the two keepers.

Early on he tipped over an Akinbolu header following a Ben Richardson free kick, had no chance with Hay’s pearler in the top corner, but before the turnaround touched aside a Keith Douglas effort and another from ‘birthday boy’ Hay.

The Tynesiders lined up for the second period without Hay and suffered another blow just before the half hour mark with top scorer Douglas pulling up with a hamstring injury.

Still only one down, Alnwick sensed they could take something from the afternoon, and Wyn Fremlin’s neat turn and shot forced Sean McCafferty to spectacularly turn behind, then fellow substitute James Jackson rifled over the top.

Shields were looking more and more anxious and relieved when Fremlin netted, but the offside flag was already raised.

Fenton’s lads, though, rolled their sleeves up to come through the sticky patch and Dean Holmes all but made it 2-0 after managing to round Brooks on 86 minutes only to see Tom McPherson get back and block on the line.

Alnwick continued to threaten throughout a generous amount of stoppage time but it was the Shieldsmen who trooped off with three crucial points under their belts.

North Shields: McCafferty, Hall, Patterson, McKeown (Hook 86), Elliott, Akinbolu, Douglas (Wright 58), Forster, Hay (McCrudden 46), Richardson, Holmes. Subs not used: M Watson, Rowntree. Man of the match: Elliott.

The injury to Douglas could see him sidelined for at least a fortnight, so the depth of the squad will be tested, and Phil Robinson – out since the FA Vase tie at Liversedge – the experienced James Harmison, midfield dynamo Paul Watson and six-goal Rob Nolan will all face fitness tests before Saturday’s trip to Horden CW (3pm).

Last season’s visit to the Welfare Ground ended goal less, but in season 2010-11 the Robins triumphed 2-0 with James Luccock and Gary Cook on the scoresheet.

Fixtures coming up for the Shieldsmen are: Saturday, November 3, Birtley (home), Thursday, November 8, Brandon United (away), Saturday, November 10, Seaham Red Star (home), Wednesday, November 14, Darlington RA (home), Northern League Cup.

Meanwhile North Shields have been drawn away to West Allotment Celtic in the quarter-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup.