What a great time to be a North Shields fan and the club are relishing all their newly found admirers.
The Robins eased into the last 16 of the FA Vase with a convincing if not quite serene success over fellow Northern League First Division colleagues Consett.
Victory before a crowd of 624 at the Daren Persson Stadium now sees Graham Fenton’s lads entertaining Southern Counties East league leaders Phoenix Sports in the next round.
That enticing tie is set for February 7 and the Kent visitors are sure to provide a real test as they are currently unbeaten in 18 league games.
Shields assistant boss Andy Bowman said: “‘All you can ask for at this stage is a home draw, they are all hard games from here in.”
After coming from the field reflecting that they are still on the Wembley trail the Robins were further buoyed when news came through that they still held pole position in the table despite the cup ‘distraction’ with nearest challengers West Auckland beaten.
Bowman thought his side were “excellent against Consett with every player at the peak of their game”.
He added: “Our front three were clever and tested the line repeatedly whilst our centre back pairing of Kevin Hughes and John Parker were simply awesome.”
Shields made a dream start with Dean Holmes’ inviting cross tucked away at the far post by Denver Morris with just four minutes on the clock.
Somehow Consett skipper Dan Madden blocked a Holmes effort on the line as the hosts maintained the early momentum by attacking with pace and fluidity.
The Steelmen though withstood the pressure and as the half wore on rallied with Luke Sullivan going close and Danny Craggs heading over when well placed.
They had the wind taken out of their sails however only a minute before the break as Morris tore into the area only to be upended and up stepped the returning Shields hotshot Gareth Bainbridge to blast home the resulting spot kick.
The second half was just seven minutes old and the Shieldsmen were delirious when Holmes sped past two defenders and Bainbridge did the rest to bag a brace.
Only a stunning point blank save from Consett custodian Tom Flynn thwarted Bainbridge of his hat trick but Shields were not to be denied a fourth, this time a sublime pass from the hard working Ben Richardson releasing lively substitute James Luccock who tucked the ball past the keeper with aplomb.
Calvin Smith gave the scoreline a modicum of respectabilty for the visitors with a late header that was purely a consolation.
North Shields: Bannon, Wrightson, Grey, McKeown, Parker, Hughes, Morris (Luccock 50), Forster (Coppen 70), Bainbridge (Walker 72), Richardson, Holmes. Subs (not used) Elliott, Robinson.
On Saturday the Robins are involved in a top of the table clash when they host fellow title contenders Shildon (3pm).
The sides met at Dean Street early in the campaign with a depleted Shields side unlucky to go down 3-2.
A Kieran Wrightson beauty knocked the Railwaymen out of the Northern League Cup when the clubs met on Tyneside last season.