North Shields’ challenge to win the Northern League is now out of their hands after they were held to a 1-1 draw away to West Allotment Celtic.
On a hugely disappointing evening at Whitley Park, things had started brightly for Shields as Dean Holmes slotted the visitors into the lead in the 19th minute.
Jon McDonald’s then looked good value to build on their advantage with a host of chances right up until John Pendlebury equalised for the hosts off the run of play.
The result means the Robins’ title chances will likely rest on them winning their three remaining games against South Shields, Morpeth Town and Newton Aycliffe and hope the Mariners drop points from now until the end of the season.
McDonald, who was making his first return to Allotment since leaving for the Robins in September 2016, would have been happy with his side’s creative start.
The first opportunity for Shields came in comical fashion as Lee Mason bowed down on goal only to be taken down by his own man – Holmes, in the fifth minute. Allotment were playing a very high defensive line in the opening exchanges and that backfired when Holmes ran through to give the league leaders the lead.
A basic long ball over the top of the Celtic backline allowed Holmes to take the ball forward and calmly fire past ex-Robins keeper Chris Bannon.
Lee Mason and Adam Forster then both went close to adding a second with surging runs before the interval.
Moments after the break, Dan Wilson agonisingly hit the inside of the post before a second Robins’ goal from Jack Donnison’s header was ruled out for an alleged foul on Bannon in the 55th minute.
As opportunities weren’t taken, West Allotment found a shock equaliser in just their second shot on goal in the game.
A driven low off-target shot was diverted goalwards by the Celtic captain as the ball crept past Kyles Hayes into the bottom right corner on the hour mark.
From then on, it seemed that the Robins were over complicating things. Instead of testing Bannon’s goal, Shields often looked for an extra pass, given the hosts the opportunity to remove any danger building.
Gareth Bainbridge, Ryan Carr, and Bobby Taylor all entered in the field in the final half hour as McDonald and co searched for a vital winner.
But the Robins never really came close, apart from one of the last moments in the game when Holmes whipped a cross in as the stretching Craig McFarlane was inches away from earning a dramatic winner.
The share of the spoils also means Shields remain, on current records, without a league win at West Allotment in their history.