A Craig McFarlane hat-trick helped North Shields to an emphatic 6-2 victory away at Ryhope CW, despite starting the game slowly.
Michael Ray put Ryhope ahead inside the first minute, but Shields responded quickly and were shortly level with a Dean Holmes strike beating the keeper. Both sides then had chances to take the lead in a scrappy first half, but it took a moment of magic from McFarlane to separate the sides at halftime.
It was Shields’ turn for a quick start in the second half and McFarlane notched his second in the opening minute of the second half. But within moments Rae grabbed his second of the game for Ryhope to reduce the deficit.
Shields soon restored the lead with Ben Harmison benefiting from a goalkeeping error, before McFarlane completed his hattrick from short range. Lee Mason finished the scoring late on with a tidy finish in to the corner.
It looked like being a long afternoon for Shields, when after just 50 seconds Ray’s strike from 12 yards out beat Sean McCafferty to give the hosts the lead. It took ten minutes for the Robins to create any chances of note, but a long ball forward was flicked on by Harmison in to the feet of Holmes who smashed the ball past Jonathan Ball in the Ryhope goal to level the scoring.
Shields then had the chance to take the lead, but a header from Richard Pell was well saved by Bell when it looked destined for the top corner.
Ryhope then should have taken the lead, but Kyle Davis could only hit the bar and Rae’s follow up was well saved by McCafferty. Ryhope maintained their pressure, forcing a succession of corners, but were undone on the break with a long ball forward finding McFarlane, who, from 25-yards out, curled it into the top right-hand corner.
Shields could have extended the lead before the break with Harmison, Holmes and Adam Forster coming close, but none were able to beat Ball in the Ryhope goal.
Not to be outdone, Shields came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with McFarlane prodding home from five yards out after just 28 seconds.
It didn’t take long for Ryhope to respond. A long ball forward played in Rae, who got in behind the Shields defence and slotted the ball past McCafferty.
The next goal felt like it would be crucial, and it didn’t take long to arrive. Ryhope looked safe in possession, but a slip from keeper Ball presented the ball to Harmison on the halfway line, who guided it into the empty net to restore Shields’ two goal lead.
Shields were starting to dominate proceedings and could have scored a fifth on the hour, but Ben Sampson couldn’t guide his effort on target. It didn’t take too long for the fifth, with Forster creating an opening on the near side and crossing for McFarlane to complete his hat-trick from five yards out.
Ryhope hadn’t given up and were still creating an occasional chance. Rae should have completed a hat-trick himself, but his 67th minute effort scraped wide of the post.
Shields remained in control, but a flurry of efforts were all saved in short succession by Ball. Forster then tried his luck from range, but his shot fizzed past the post.
Shields weren’t finished yet, and with 10 minutes to go substitute Lee Mason slotted into the bottom corner from close range to make it 6-2 to the Robins.