Robins ready for season back in First Division

Adam Forster in action for North Shields in their pre-season friendly against Blyth Spartans. Picture by Ian Warde.
Adam Forster in action for North Shields in their pre-season friendly against Blyth Spartans. Picture by Ian Warde.

Robins fans are preparing for their dreams to come true as North Shield embark upon their first season back in the Northern League First Division for 25 years.

It is extra special as it is also 45 campaigns since their memorable Wembley triumph and the last, and only time, the Shieldsmen have lifted the First Division championship.

Then they pipped Whitley Bay by a point though the Robins went close, finishing runners-up to Blyth Spartans in 1984 with Jim Pearson at the helm.

Shields’ final two friendlies saw them lose 2-0 to Blyth in a tight encounter.

Robins hot-shot and Northern Player of the Year Gareth Bainbridge was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with a rasping drive that rattled the post.

Guest at that match was Shields super-sub Tommy Orrick whilst Bainbridge did bag a brace as Shields retained the Gary Hull Memorial Trophy on Saturday.

Ryan Carr tucked away the decisive third goal and Robins’ skipper proudly collected the Cup despite a monsoon right at the final whistle.

The 2013-4 season could not possibly have gone any better for Graham Fenton’s lads-comfortably seeing off all challengers and accumulating a magic 100 points.

Fenton though is enthusiastic if a trifle cautious at the months ahead.

“It’s obviously a little bit of an unknown quantity for us, though we’ve already proved ourselves by beating the likes of Shildon and Morpeth in cups last term,” he said.

“We’ll be giving it a real go and aim to finish as high as possible – we’ve a great squad and competition for places will be intense.”

Most of the championship squad have re-signed boosted by new signings including Curtis Coppen (Birtley), Peter Glen-Ravenhill (Team Northumbria), Chris Fawcett (Whitley Bay), Alan Ewart (Team North) and Rob Taylor (Monkseaton Academy).

Fans favourite James Luccock has also returned after a spell at Newcastle Benfield whilst keeper James Howarth joins from Blyth to contest the gloves with the Robins’ longest serving player Michael Robinson.

Saturday’s opener at the Daren Persson Stadium sees Crook Town provide the opposition (3pm)

The sides met in the FA Cup last year and two cracking ties ensued, 11 goals flowed and it took extra time at the Millfield Ground to produce a winner.

In a Northern League First Division match the clubs last faced each other in 1988 – it was 1-1 at Shields, Paul Pitman on the mark for the hosts.

On Wednesday, August 13, it is a testing trip to high-flying Guisborough Town (7.45pm).

It is FA Cup action on Saturday, August 16, as Shields meet up again with Pontefract Collieries of the Northern Counties East League.