ONLY a single strike this time –from James Luccock – but it proved enough for North Shields FC to extend their unbeaten run to 15 league games on Tuesday evening.
The Shields fans have been drooling recently at the plethora of goals their side has been plundering, but it was the Robins’ defenders who took the plaudits as the club kept a seventh clean sheet in 21 league outings with a 1-0 win over Team Northumbria.
The third placed Shieldsmen now have a nine-point gap between themselves and fourth top Marske, both sides having played equal games, following this precious victory.
It was always going to be a close call when third met fifth, the visitors having taken Marske to the wire three days earlier, and gone down only 2-1 to the Robins back in November.
Shields made just two changes to the 11 that put seven past Washington, with Paul Watson and Steven Robinson, recovered from injury, coming in for Phil Cartwright and player-boss Anthony Woodhouse.
Northumbria did not know what had hit them with the Robins in full flow right from the initial whistle and, after surviving a couple of goalmouth melees, conceded the decisive goal after five minutes.
And what a beauty it was with Femi Akinbolu’s perfectly weighted ball releasing Luccock to shrug off a challenge, race clear and slot past keeper Andrew Jennison with aplomb to record his 14th of the campaign so far.
It continued with wave after wave of attacks with Andy Hay, Luccock and Robbie Livermore all sending in drives not too wide of the mark and Jennison thwarting Keith Douglas and Hay.
A second goal was not forthcoming, however, and, as the half wore on, the visitors started to exert themselves.
As Shields lost their dominance Michael Robinson did well to punch clear from Jack Palmer but a battling midfield and some determined defending restricted the number of clear cut openings.
Luccock, on the left flank, was providing the main outlet but was starved of the ball and in the second period switched to right wing back following an injury to Jon Hall with Neil Baistow coming on against his former club.
On 65 minutes Livermore and substitute Michael Pattison, the match winner at Coach Lane, combined by Luccock rifled wide whilst at the other end, visiting skipper Gavin Donoghue, who has represented Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland at under-19 level, drove just over from a tight angle.
Team Northumbria substitute Danny Riley posed plenty problems late on with Robinson quickly out of his goal to make one particularly brave save.
Third replacement Cartwright came on to bolster the home troops, who held on throughout the anxious closing stages.
Steve Robinson was named Man of the Match, with Danny Patterson picking up the January Player of the Month award.
North Shields: M. Robinson, Hall (Baistow 58), Patterson, Livermore (Cartwright 75), S. Robinson, Akinbolu, Rasmussen, Watson, Hay, Douglas (Pattison 69), Luccock. Subs not used: Bowman, Graham.