North Shields are chirping along towards a potential Wembley date after making it to the FA Vase quarter final.
It was the Shieldsmen’s seventh tie in the competition and the fifth time they have scored four whilst Kent visitors Phoenix Sports were unbeaten in 21 league games, conceding a mere eight goals all campaign.
Shields were in top form though and the largest Vase crowd of the day – 1,092 – created a special atmosphere and relished the performance.
Boss Graham Fenton hailed his players, saying: “They were simply magnificent from start to finish.”
And their reward is either a trip to South Lincolnshire outfit Holbeach United – third in the United Counties Premier Division – or Erith & Belvedere, who are second in the Southern Counties East League behind Phoenix Sports.
Fenton named a strong side with only the injured Joe Elliott, Dean Walker Marc Lancaster and the cup-tied Gary Day unable to make the final 16.
Shields were in dreamland and 2-0 to the good by the 21st minute.
Ben Richardson curled a delicious free kick in off the post with just nine minutes on the clock then Michael McKeown set up Dean Holmes who made no mistake.
McKeown was again awesome in the middle of the park and tested Phoenix keeper Steve Phillips with a fierce low drive as the visitors struggled to contain the pace and potency of Holmes, who was unlucky not to complete a first half hat trick, and Denver Morris.
The Tynesiders sensed vulnerability in their opponents and continued to press but Phoenix to their credit came out for the second period prepared to battle and stretched the Robins in a nervy spell.
It was just about all over though when goal poacher Gareth Bainbridge pounced after some loose defensive play to coolly lob the keeper.
Phoenix centre forward Ricky Freeman saw red mist after a silly challenge on Shields custodian Chris Bannon and the ‘Cod Army’ gave him a good send off.
Yacine Gnahore reduced the deficit for the ten men but the Shieldsfolk were delirious when more silky skills from Morris set up Bainbridge for his side’s fourth and his 15th in this Vase run so far.
North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Grey, McKeown, Parker, Hughes, Morris, Forster (69), Bainbridge (Luccock 79), Richardson (Coppen 89), Holmes. Subs (not used) Wrightson, Robinson.
There is no let up for the Shieldsmen as Saturday brings leaders West Auckland Town to the Daren Persson Stadium (3pm).
Auckland were last at Shields for a Northern League match back in 1982 and suffered a 5-0 reverse with Paul Teasdale, Ray Young, Mark Linighan, David Varty and Steven Wright all on the scoresheet.
On Wednesday Jarrow Roofing travel over the Tyne for a 7.30pm kick off.
North Shields then go to Consett on Saturday, February 21, before the Vase clash set for February 28, which has resulted in the home fixture with Bishop Auckland being rescheduled for Wednesday, March 4.