NORTH Shields FC maintained their impressive away record, having lost only once in the Northern League on opponents soil all last season, at Whickham almost a year ago.
However, the point picked up in the 0-0 draw with Horden at the Welfare Ground on Saturday failed to lift the Shieldsmen from an unfamiliar position at the foot of the table, without a league win in four attempts.
The Robins’ placing is clouded because they have, before Crook on Wednesday, played fewer games than all but two of the teams above them, some of whom have competed in three more matches.
It seems the side is still suffering a bit of a hangover after just missing out on promotion last term but, once they get into their stride, perhaps another lengthy unbeaten sequence is in prospect.
As team boss Anthony Woodhouse declared after the 90 minutes: “That was a much improved performance, there were signs of the old Robins returning.”
At Horden they were met by spirited resistance from a young home outfit who were indebted to keeper Tom Orton for keeping a clean sheet.
Mark Rasmussen forced Orton into a fine save with only minutes on the clock, but then the Shields midfielder had to be carried from the field suffering from knee ligament trouble.
That was a blow to the Robins hopes, but Phil Cartwright came on to produce a storming display in the middle of the park.
Horden engineered a number of openings themselves in the opening period, with Ryan Beal doing well to parry a Kevin Price header, watch Leigh Guthrie screw wide from close range and breathe a sigh of relief as Liam Woodhouse saw an effort strike the woodwork.
Andy Hay was leading the Shields line admirably and James Luccock was seeing a lot of the ball on the left flank, but the latter, who netted in last season’s 2-0 verdict at Horden and went on to unleash some magical strikes in the first part of last term, is still searching for that touch of good fortune to get his tally up and running again.
On the 36 minute mark Orton produced a stunning save to thwart Keith Douglas whilst before the turnaround Joe Elliott twice tested the keeper and Hay turned sweetly only to curl his shot inches wide.
The second half opened with a spell of relentless pressure from the Shieldsmen, but that decisive goal just would not come.
Shots rained in from Hay, three times, Douglas and Robbie Livermore, but nothing was spilled from Orton’s grasp.
Even central defender Kevin Hughes moved forward to rifle goalwards and appeared to be denied by a defender’s hand but penalty shouts were brushed aside.
As the final whistle loomed the hosts sensed they could sneak the points themselves and Beal had to come to the Robins’ rescue, scrambling off the line in a goalmouth melee then brilliantly tipping behind from Woodhouse as honours were to end even.
North Shields: Beal, Hall, Patterson, Elliott, Atkinson, Hughes, Livermore (Grey 78), Rasmussen (Cartwright 13), Hay, Douglas (S Wright 78), Luccock. Subs not used: Salter, Arnot. Man of the match Andy Hay.
On Saturday North Shields set off on the FA Vase trail when they entertain second division colleagues Northallerton Town in the first qualifying round.
Kick off is 3pm at the Daren Persson Stadium at Ralph Gardner Park, with extra time to be played should the scores be level after 90 minutes.
Should replays not be required in this and the Easington versus Prudhoe Town tie then the Robins will host the Colliery side on Wednesday, September 14, at 7.30pm.
Both Northern League matches against Northallerton ended in draws in the last campaign, 2-2 at Ainderby Road and 1-1 on Tyneside.
Shields last met Easington in the 2004-05 season, losing 0-1 at home but winning 2-1 away thanks to strikes from Andy Bowman and Tony Colquhoun.