North Shields dug deep to claim their tenth consecutive league victory in front of a large travelling support at Penrith.
The Robins fans travelled in their numbers to Cumbria to see team side maintain their title challenge after a lively second-half performance at Frenchfields.
Fresh from signing a new contract last week, Ryan Carr gave Jon McDonald’s side the lead after the break before Craig McFarlane stretched Shields’ lead to two.
Penrith hit back through Robbie Hebson, leaving the hosts with 15 minutes to find an equaliser, but Shields held out for another important victory in difficult conditions.
The journey to Frenchfields is the Robins’ longest of the season, and the visitors needed the first half to adapt to a pitch that began to cut-up from kick-off. Despite this, Shields did have the better of the chances.
In a good move, Adam Forster found himself in the area as a shot at Morgan Bacon’s near post nearly caught out the Bonny Blue’s keeper as he awkwardly tumbled the shot.
Top scorer Lee Mason, who was looking for his 29th goal of the season, hit two opportunities over the bar in minutes apart of each other.
Mason’s first came when he got in behind the Penrith defence, but surprisingly hit his strike off target.
Mason would have wanted to make a quick amends for his miss, and nearly did so after clever work on the edge of the area allowed him to turn at site at goal, but again the shot failed to hit the target.
The Bonny Blue’s best opportunity of the half was presented when Kyle Hayes appeared to be fouled when he came to collect a free kick, though when the ball fell to a Penrith attacker, he scuffed the shot wide.
Shields were committed more offensively as they adjusted to the problematic pitch.
A new intent straight from kick-off saw the away side win a corner and Curtis Coppen rose above his man to see his header cleared off the line before the ball saw itself fall to McFarlane, who hammered a stinging shot off the post.
Defender Coppen was back in the action in the 55th minute as he contributed to the Robins’ opener. The centre-back’s shot across goal was not dealt with by keeper Bacon, allowing Carr to bundle the ball over the line.
Dan Wilson replaced Mason in the 69th minute to offer a physical presence up front for Shields, though Wilson’s first involvement was to celebrate McFarlane slotting home to double the league leaders’ lead.
Carr aimed a ball out wide to Dean Holmes and the winger knocked the ball into his stride to slide a cross into the penalty area as McFarlane raced ahead of the hosts’ defence to give McDonald’s side breathing space.
But soon after earning a two-goal advantage, Shields’ defence was unusually caught slacking as Hebson ran in behind the backline unmarked to toe the ball home following a visionary pass from his teammate.
However, any fears of a nervy finish for the travelling supporters failed to materialise. The away side kept their cool to prevent any pressure on their backline as Wilson’s effort to make it 3-1 was inches wide of the post.
Highlights of Saturday;s win at Penrith are online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1QQol31GFk
The Robins now turn their attentions to the Northumberland Senior Cup as Peter Beardsley’s Newcastle United Under-23s stand in the way of another final at St James’ Park.