SHIELDS started the new year in some style with a six-goal rout of Thornaby.
This was the consummate performance from the Robins, who racked up a similar scoreline to that when the two sides met at Teesdale Park on the final day of last season.
The Shieldsmen had suffered a treble blow of waterlogged pitches and had not played since a 3-1 verdict at Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on December 17, courtesy of strikes from James Harmison, Rob Nolan and Dean Holmes.
After that game Robins’ team boss Graham Fenton reflected: “The season has gone pretty much as we expected.
“We knew the first two months would be tough but, with a couple of new players drafted in, results picked up.
“If we can stay relatively injury free then we’ll certainly be in with a shout for promotion come April.”
Shields have certainly struck up a rich vein of form and are unbeaten in their last ten games having chalked up 26 points and have experienced just the one reverse in 17 outings.
The Robins were putting together some sublime moves right from the off and went ahead on the quarter hour mark when Holmes combined with Adam Forster before rifling a beauty past a bemused keeper.
Nine minutes on and Michael McKeown and skipper Dan Patterson opened up the home rearguard down the left flank, Holmes centred and Nolan neatly turned before rattling in a second goal.
Robins custodian Sean McCafferty was quickly out to block from Rocky Andrews in a rare home sortie and on 39 minutes a glorious through ball from McKeown sent Nolan haring down on goal and Shields’ top marksman coolly rounded Nick Farrell before slotting home.
Just before the interval Ben Richardson’s free kick found Keith Douglas who gave the keeper no chance with a delicate header.
There was further misery inflicted on the Teessiders after the turnaround with substitute Kieran Wrightson certainly making an impression, smartly tucking away two chances whilst Paul Watson was given a welcome return to action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Shields assistant manager Andy Bowman commented: “I thought we were outstanding and this sets us up for what is going to be a tricky month.
“The lads were up and at it from the start and the 4-0 scoreline at half time made for a carefree second.”
North Shields: McCafferty, Elliott, Patterson, Richardson, Harmison, Akinbolu, Forster (Watson 70), McKeown, Nolan, Douglas (Wrightson 55), Holmes (Hall 66). Subs (not used): Hook, M Robinson. Man of the match Michael McKeown.
Following the midweek visit of Chester-le-Street, North Shields stage the match of the day when early pace-setters Ryhope CW, managed by former Shieldsman Martin Swales, travel to the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday, 3pm.
When the two sides met on Wearside in August, the Robins emerged 3-1 victors through James Harmison, Femi Akinbolu and a Keith Douglas penalty.
It is the return fixture with Thornaby on Wednesday, January 16, with trips to Morpeth Town on Saturday, January 19, and Tow Low on January 22.
The home fixture with Tow Law has been brought forward to Friday, January 25, with Fenton’s lads scheduled to visit Washington in the Ernest Armstrong Trophy on Wednesday, January 30.