North Shields lose league opener at Guisborough

North Shields goalscorer Gary Day takes on the Guisborough defence. Picture by Craig McVay
North Shields goalscorer Gary Day takes on the Guisborough defence. Picture by Craig McVay

FA Vase winners North Shields tasted defeat on their return to the bread and butter of the Northern League almost three months to the day since their Wembley triumph.

It was always going to be a test against a Guisborough Town side that are genuine title contenders with only one place and a point separating the teams in the table in the last campaign.

Robins manager Graham Fenton had to reckon without the injured Dean Holmes, who tormented the Priorymen when bagging a brace as the Shieldsmen won 3-0 in the corresponding fixture last August.

Successes on the opening day are a rarity for the Robins and this match proved no exception.

The starting line-up were all men who served the club superbly in 2014-15 season with two newcomers named on the bench.

Defenders David Coulson and Jack Walker were included in the 16 whilst midfielder Gary Ormston was not available and keeper Sean McCafferty was out injured.

Four of the Wembley squad have departed to pastures new with custodian Michael Robinson released one short of 200 appearances for the club, experienced defender and vice-captain Joe Elliott joining West Allotment Celtic whilst midfielder Kieran Wrightson and front runner Dean Walker were snapped up by Jarrow Roofing and Newcastle Benfield respectively.

However, stalwart Wilf Keilty, a former player, coach and manager, is relishing his return to the club to help in a coaching capacity following a stint at West Allotment.

He said after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat: “Of course it was a disappointing result and whilst no one is claiming we deserved to win, we could and should have come home with a share of the spoils.

“Guisborough are obviously a more than decent outfit and it was pleasing that our lads, after going two goals down due to some unusually lax defending, responded strongly to have them on the ropes in the last 20 minutes.

“The substitutions made by Graham and Brian Smith had the desired effect, and but for some wayward finishing by our own standards and a generous refereeing decision to rule out a Gareth Bainbridge effort when the keeper spilled the ball under the gentlest of challenges, then honours would have ended even.”

The hosts shaded the first period though the Robins pressed initially, and with the central pairing of John Parker and skipper Kevin Hughes both upfield, an early header flashed agonisingly wide of the post with Boro keeper Nick Liversedge well beaten.

The North Yorkshiremen created the better openings, though, and Shields keeper Chris Bannon, named NSFC TV man of the match, performed some first half heroics to keep his side afloat, particularly excelling to push a Steven Snaith free kick to safety.

Shields were caught cold at the start of the second period and on 48 minutes Luke Bythway weaved past a couple of challenges to fire home giving Bannon no chance.

It was 2-0 just before the hour mark leaving the Tynesiders to chase the game as Curtis Round followed up to net after his initial effort had been blocked.

A double substitution bringing on Gary Day and Ryan Carr and a change in formation roused the visitors, and when Day oozed composure to pull a goal back with eight minutes left on the clock, there was renewed hope.

Bainbridge could not find his golden goal touch with a couple of opportunities as time ran out.

Boss Fenton though was pleased with his players’ efforts.

“We deserved something from the game, we need to sharpen up a little and there’s plenty to work on, but its very early days,” he said.

North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Grey, McKeown, Hughes, Morris, Forster (Day 66), Bainbridge, Richardson, Luccock (Carr 66). Subs not used: Coulson, Walker, Smith.

Shields at home to Seaham Red Star (on Wednesday) then embark upon the FA Cup trail away to Bridlington Town of the Northern Counties East Premier Division on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.

Any replay would be at the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday, August 19, kick-off 7.45pm, otherwise the Robins will be chasing league points on that evening at Penrith.

Watch a video of Saturday’s game against Guisborough.