North Shields made light of Gary Ormston’s early dismissal en route to victory on Saturday as goals from Dan Wilson and Gareth Bainbridge sealed a deserved 2-0 win over West Auckland Town.
After a number of stellar performances during the midweek win over Marske United, North Shields manager Graham Fenton named a largely unchanged side for the weekend clash.
Only Ryan McGorrigan, impressive on Wednesday evening, was absent from the starting 11 after failing a fitness test, James Luccock occupying the right flank in his place.
After holding a minute’s silence for local boys Taylor Atherton and Olly Bilcliffe, who passed away this week aged 14 and 15 respectively, West Auckland enjoyed the better of the tentative opening exchanges.
A seemingly difficult task for the hosts was made even harder when Ormston received his marching orders after just ten minutes.
The subject of a firm but fair challenge, the midfielder retaliated with a challenge of his own moments later. However, his reckless slide caught John Seaton late and at pace, giving the referee little option but to reach for an early red card.
Ben Richardson dropped into central midfield as Shields sought to retain their shape, and the Robins successfully prevented West from benefitting from the one-man advantage, keeping the dangerous Adam Burnicle quiet all afternoon.
The visitors had to wait until the 25th minute until catching a glimpse of goal, a Michael McKeown challenge sending David Edwards’ speculative effort wide.
Instead it was Shields who posed the first serious threat of the game minutes later.
Daniel Wilson, now an isolated hold-up figure in attack, linked up well with Dean Holmes on the left, working the ball into the box and feeding it back to the winger. Holmes stepped inside and squeezed a shot through the covering defenders but it was easily gathered by goalkeeper David Knight.
West responded with an attack of their own, belatedly calling Shields stopper Chris Bannon into action.
Darren Richardson blazed one half-chance over the crossbar but looked odds on to slam home a cross in the area, only to be denied by a brave block from the on-rushing Bannon.
Shields were at sixes and sevens when attempting to prevent a follow-up, which was eventually fired off target by Edwards.
That attack aside, North Shields rarely looked troubled by the opposition, Jack Donnison and Curtis Coppen particularly resilient in the back four.
As West struggled to make any impact in the final third, Shields grew in confidence. Wilson and Holmes again combining around the box, the latter’s effort finding the safe palms of Knight once more.
The game looked set to be goalless heading into the break, but the Robins made a crucial breakthrough just two minutes before half-time.
The returning Luccock fed the ball through the defence into the path of Wilson, who showed impressive composure to round the stranded Knight and side-foot into an empty net.
The goal from ten-man Shields ensured that West Auckland would have to take more risks going forward if they were to take anything from the game, and the second half was a more open fair as a direct result.
Wilson, a thorn in the visitors’ side for much of the afternoon, almost grabbed a second moments after the restart, poking the ball beyond centre half Ian Maddison but not past Knight, the goalkeeper producing a magnificent close-range save to keep his side in the tie.
The two danger men were both taken off by the hour mark, Wilson and Holmes replaced by the fresh legs of Bainbridge and Ryan Carr respectively.
Luccock was still proving a handful down the right hand side, seeing a shot from a narrow angle deflected behind.
As West grew frustrated in their efforts to find a leveller, a wayward Chris Emms free kick the only chance of note, the winger was afforded more space out wide.
Picked out on the counter by a wonderful pass from Carr, the joint-top scorer raced 50 yards downfield but could not supply a finish to match the run, his shot zipping past the far post.
Shields had been in similar situations in recent months, dominating games but surrendering narrow leads, and Luccock’s miss might have had a few fans at the Daren Persson Stadium sweating as the game entered its final stages.
However, the result was made safe 14 minutes from time, a familiar name adorning the scoresheet.
Man of the match Donnison surged down the right flank and whipped a low ball into the six-yard area where the arriving Bainbridge stroked the ball first time past Knight.
The rampant hosts could have extended their lead further in the final ten minutes, and another substitution almost had the desired impact.
Peter Glen-Ravenhill, on in place of Luccock, sped onto a fine McKeown through ball and whipped in a cross from the left. The delivery found the intended recipient in McKeown, but the midfielder could not make it two goals in as many games as he was denied by a brave Thomas Marron challenge.
McKeown continued to pull the strings for ten-man Shields as Andy Campbell’s men tired, and only the on-rushing Knight prevented Carr from finishing another excellent defence-splitting flick.
At the other end, another introduction, midfielder Shaun Hudson, came closest to halving arrears for West, curling inches wide from 18 yards out.
However, it was undeniably Shields’ afternoon, and though Bainbridge could not apply the gloss with a third goal, the hosts still ran out deserved winners, working incredibly hard across the field to compensate for the early setback.
North Shields will hope to continue their rich vein of form when Jarrow Roofing visit the Daren Persson Stadium in midweek, the Northern League division one clash kicking off at 7.30pm on Wednesday night.
North Shields: Bannon, Donnison, Lancaster, McKeown, Coppen, Hughes, Luccock (Glen-Ravenhill), Ormston, Wilson (Bainbridge), Richardson, Holmes (Carr).