NORTH Shields regained their form with a heartening midweek performance that saw them knock in four goals without reply and record their first home victory since Boxing Day.
The Robins were flying after they topped the 50 point mark with a 2-0 verdict at Hebburn Town but since then they have limped through the 50s and, only now some ten matches later, have they been able to take their tally to 61 points.
It was another clean sheet though for the Shieldsmen, their 11th of the league campaign, and they still boast the best defensive statistics in the division.
Shields were still without key defenders Danny Patterson and James Harmison whilst keeper Michael Robinson also joined the injured list so a debut between the posts was handed to Shaun McCafferty.
The Robins got off to a dream start when, following some great work by Dean Holmes, the ball was laid into the path of Keith Douglas and the club skipper made no mistake on the six minute mark.
Shields continued to play fluent football and, when John Grey and Holmes combined, an Adam Forster rasping drive was deflected only inches wide.
The visitors carved out a couple of opportunities of their own and centre forward Brian Harrison should have levelled but lobbed the ball over the bar when clean through.
Just before half time the Robins gained some breathing space when Andy Hay profited from a stray back pass to set up Douglas for his second goal and his 15th of the campaign.
Into the second period and McCafferty did well to hold onto a Harrison header before Robins defender Danny Bowlt was able to celebrate his first goal for the club with a smart header following a Douglas corner.
Paul Watson nodded another Douglas flag kick inches over before the icing on the cake was provided by substitute James Luccock, who revived memories of his magical strikes last season, when on 81 minutes he unleashed an exquisite chip to put his side four goals to the good.
North Shields: McCafferty, Hughes, Grey, Dunn (Watson 57), Akinbolu, Bowlt, Forster (Luccock 67), Rasmussen, Hay, Douglas, Holmes (Wright 67). Subs not used: Sheeran, Rowntree.
Shields travelled west for the second successive Saturday but suffered a 3-0 reverse at Carlisle outfit Gillford Park.
Only one goal separated the sides at half time but the Robins found themselves three down by the 54th minute.
The second was an unlucky own goal and though Adam Rowntree and Mark Sheeran saw efforts cleared off the line and a blatant penalty for a handling offence was turned down in a late flurry the Shieldsmen were denied even a consolation.
Shields assistant manager Andy Bowman reflected: “We started slowly and weren’t passing the ball with any sort of tempo.
“The ball wouldn’t stick up front and we weren’t closing them down quick enough in midfield.
“The formation we set up wasn’t working and I changed it just after half time when perhaps that should have been done earlier.
“Gillford scored at key times in the game and there was no getting back.
“In the last half hour we created more chances and it could have finished a less damaging scoreline.
“Praise to keeper Michael Robinson who played with an ankle injury which meant he couldn’t strike the ball but continued regardless.”
Less than 48 hours after playing at Bedlington Terriers in a Northern League Cup quarter final Shields are in action again, at West Allotment Celtic on Good Friday, noon kick off.
Goals from Andy Hay and Scott Blandford earned the Robins the points in a 2-1 win at the Daren Perrson Stadium earlier in the campaign.
Shields’ remaining league fixtures are: Esh Winning (away), Wednesday, April 11; Northallerton Town (away), Saturday, April 14; Chester-le-Street (home), Saturday, April 21; Thornaby (away), Saturday, April 28.