It’s taken some time but North Shields finally did it.
On a day to savour at the Daren Persson Stadium the Shieldsmen, thanks to Dan Smart’s winner against his old club Jarrow Roofing, chalked up their first ever success on the opening afternoon since the Robins returned to the Northern League.
A hugely competitive encounter between two of the fancied championship contenders was settled by Smart’s superb strike on the quarter hour mark.
But the Robins had other heroes as they oozed steel and resolve with the centre back pairing of skipper Kevin Hughes and John Parker particularly awesome.
The two sides had last met towards the end of the last campaign and a gritty 0-0 draw earned by the injury ravaged Robins ultimately denied Roofing of two points and promotion.
This time Shields took to the field unbeaten in seven pre-season outings and team boss Graham Fenton selected the same starting 11 that turned out at Hemsworth in the final friendly.
Jarrow enjoyed the bulk of the early possession and threatened through a Dean Nicholson free kick that Michael Robinson spectacularly tipped behind, then the Shields custodian flung himself to his left to touch Dan Kirkup’s shot onto the woodwork.
The hosts dug in and began to shade the remainder of the half once Smart had received from Adam Forster to drive sweetly past former Robins keeper Dan Regan.
Ryan Carr then let fly to test Regan whilst, at the back, the Robins were winning all the headers that mattered to frustrate the visitors.
The second period began with lots of huffing and puffing from Roofing but it was Fenton’s lads who all but made the points safe with Regan only half stopping another effort from Smart and was hugely relieved to see the loose ball clatter against the post.
Smart was once more in the action and rifled goalwards only for team-mate Adam Scope to inadvertently block the ball, a scenario replicated at the other end with Paul Gardiner’s drive smacking into the back of Dean Nicholson.
Shields had to dig deep as the clock ticked over with Roofing piling on the pressure as they desperately strove for a leveller.
However, a determined back line shielded Robinson magnificently, though the keeper still had to excel by charging down Andy Appleby’s shot and thwarting Gardiner.
Robinson was not to be beaten in what seemed like endless stoppage time and the Shieldsmen relished the sound of the final whistle and the celebrating could begin.
North Shields: M Robinson, Elliott, Grey, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Forster, Wrightson (Scope 78), Bainbridge (Douglas 79), Smart, Carr (Donnison 89). Subs (not used) Mbiavanga, P Robinson. Man of the match: Dan Regan.
Following the midweek visit of Whitehaven, North Shields travel to the Farsley AFC ground in Leeds to take on Albion Sport of the Northern Counties East Premier Division in the FA Cup on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.
Should the scores be level after 90 minutes the replay would take place at Shields on Wednesday, August 21 (7.45pm).
Otherwise the Robins will entertain Birtley Town on that night in a league fixture (7.30pm).