Robins clinch promotion to the top flight

North Shields celebrate Dean Holmes' goal. Picture by Ian Warde.
North Shields celebrate Dean Holmes' goal. Picture by Ian Warde.

North Shields celebrated promotion to the Ebac Northern League first division on Saturday as three second half goals saw off a determined challenge from Chester-le-Street on an afternoon to savour.

There were ecstatic scenes at the end of the 90 minutes as the players were cheered from the field with Chester skipper Craig Marron one of the first to offer his congratulations.

The visitors provided stern opposition during a tense opening half as the Robins, led by livewire Dean Holmes, searched for a breakthrough.

The Cestrians, though, were not to be party poopers once hot-shot Gareth Bainbridge pocketed his 53rd goal of the campaign by nodding in a Ben Richardson corner.

Then a Holmes drive beat keeper Chris Rookes with man of the match Michael Tait capping a superb individual performance in the middle of the park and providing the icing on the cake by powering home a header at the far post following another Richardson flag kick three minutes from time.

North Shields: Robinson, Donnison, Turner, Richardson, Parker, Elliott, Tait, Forster, (Scope 77), Bainbridge, Smart (Walker 77), Holmes, (Wrightson 66). Subs not used: Hughes, Courtney.

The Shieldsmen have a staggering goal difference of plus 100, having scored 129 and yielding a mere 29.

A delighted management team of Graham Fenton and Andy Bowman heaped praise on their squad afterwards.

Fenton said: “The lads have been fantastic – to reach our promotion goal in March is unbelievable.

“‘We couldnt be more happy for the players and supporters. The side has done everything we’ve asked and we’ve succeeded in bringing in lads with the right character and quality.”

Exactly 50 years ago North Shields played their first ever Northern League game at Shildon, winning 7-1 before embarking on pastures new in 1989 in the NCEL then the Wearside League.

Returning to the Northern League in 2004 they have strived to compete in the first division, going close in 2011 with a fourth place under Anthony Woodhouse.

Ths Robins went into the Chester game on the back of a 6-2 verdict at Alnwick Town where Bainbridge bagged another hat-trick including one from the spot, with Dean Walker, Holmes and Tait the other marksmen.

Shields’ next aim is to secure the league championship, and they edged a step closer on Tuesday evening with a goalless draw at Heaton Stannington.

The Robins were content with a share of the spoils as the match ended shrouded in fog.

On Saturday Shields host Whickham at 3pm.

North Shields’ remaining fixtures are South Shields, away, April 12; West Allotment, home, Good Friday, April 18, 11am; Darlington RA, away, April 26.