THE final positions in the Ebac Northern League second division are being dictated by exhaustion levels as North Shields have run out of gas and are in free fall.
A dismal showing at the Glebe Ground on Saturday saw them beaten 4-0 by Whickham.
And this followed three defeats on home soil inside five days, with the Robins’ last-gap win at Morpeth Town their only success in seven outings.
There are mitigating circumstances ash manager Graham Fenton, at times, has struggled to field 11 fit players, with a number having to play in foreign positions.
At Whickham they were the victims of some decisions from the officials, including two contentious penalty awards to the hosts and a Shields reply wrongly chalked off by an assistant’s flag.
Apart from the disallowed ‘goal’, though, the Shieldsmen struggled to create an opening other than that which saw Michael McMullen fire over in the closing stages.
At one point in the campaign, Fenton’s lads boasted the best defensive record in the division, but this 4-0 reverse and the 5-1 loss at Northallerton in February, have ruined that statistic.
Courtesy of the two spot-kicks, Whickham’s prolific Ian Robson was able to bag a hat-trick, with Scott Swanston also finding the net.
North Shields: McCafferty, Wrightson, Grey, Forster, Hall, Elliott, P Robinson (Rowntree 50 mins), Watson (Wright 31 mins), Nolan, Douglas (Bowman 73 mins), McMullen. Subs not used: Holmes, M Robinson.
The number of Shields players on the treatment table increased by five with midfielders Paul Watson and Phil Robinson both carried off at Whickham.
And skipper Dan Patterson, centre half James Harmison and live-wire forward Dean Holmes all limped off during the home clash with Tow Law Town two days earlier.
Shields were meeting the Lawyers for the first time in 24 years, and the opening 43 minutes were evenly contested.
Then the Tynesiders could not believe it when an assistant kept his flag down and a Scott Thompson effort was allowed to stand despite the players being a minimum of two yards offside.
There was plenty to enthuse about in Shields’ second half showing, but an equaliser just would not come.
Substitute John Grey produced some stirring runs down the left flank and Holmes struck the crossbar before the match was soured with Tow Law captain red carded for a challenge on Adam Forster before Dan Wilson made it 2-0 deep into stoppage time.
North Shields host Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, before meeting up with Tow Law again on Tuesday, April 23, with a 7.30pm kick-off at the Ironworks Road ground.
The Robins’ last two fixtures are both against Chester-le-Street, away on Saturday, April 27, at 3pm, and then at home on Tuesday, April 30, kick-off 7.30pm.