Unbeaten Shields make it 39 goals in nine games

North Shields' Kieran Wrightson. Picture by Ian Warde.
North Shields' Kieran Wrightson. Picture by Ian Warde.

Such a stylish hat-trick from North Shields’ ace marksman Gareth Bainbridge was the highlight as the Robins strengthened their grip at the top of the table with a six-goal triumph.

Still unbeaten after nine league outings and having now rattled in 39 goals, Graham Fenton’s side certainly relished their trip to County Durham.

It was only the Robins’ third visit to Willington’s Hall Lane ground in 30 years’ but on each occasion they have tucked in six goals.

Back in 1982-83, the season of Shields’ FA Cup victory at Halifax, the Robins romped home thanks to strikes from Ian Donaldson (2), Frank Cassidy (2), Ray Young and George Dickson.

The 2004-05 campaign saw the Tynesiders come out on top by a 6-1 verdict as Paul Gibbs bagged a hat-trick and Dave Thompson, David Brown and Paul Hogg also found the scoresheet.

Present coach Andy Bowman wore the number ten shirt that day and, on Saturday, he was there to witness some superb strikes with even the Willington lads applauding the finishes.

Skipper Kevin Hughes returned to the centre of defence to partner Joe Elliott with John Parker fit enough only for a place on the bench.

Elliott and fellow defender John Grey both moved forward and all but found the net in the opening half as Shields built up a three-goal advantage.

Willington keeper Chris Sawyer saved well from Dan Smart but was beaten after 12 minutes as Bainbridge brilliantly controlled a through ball before pinning an unstoppable drive past the custodian.

Adam Forster, Kieran Wrightson and Ben Richardson were relishing the midfield battle and, when Smart was released on 25 minutes, he delicately lifted the ball over Sawyer for number two.

An exquisite chip by Bainbridge had the Shields fans drooling just after the half hour, the former Ashington front-runner notching his hat-trick goal six minutes into the second period after receiving from Smart.

Shields went nap on 62 minutes, Richardson’s precision pass latched onto by Smart who made no mistake.

The hosts never gave up and Michael Robinson had to touch behind from Dan Shoulder before substitute Keith Douglas completed a comprehensive victory with his side’s sixth in the closing stages.

There was still time for Durham referee Mark Ryan to take centre stage in stoppage time, dismissing Smart after a nondescript offence.

North Shields: M Robinson, Donnison, Grey, Richardson, Hughes, Elliott, Scope (P Robinson 55), Forster (Carr 66), Bainbridge (Douglas 60), Smart, Wrightson. Subs not used: Parker, Courtney.

Midweek the Shieldsmen were involved in an entertaining tussle with Northallerton Town but despite leading twice through Adam Scope and Dan Smart they were pegged back by a Jamie Clarke brace as honours ended even at 2-2.

The Robins lined up against first division hot-shots Shildon on Wednesday in a Northern League cup tie before travelling to Yorkshire’s West Riding to take on Silsden on Saturday in the FA Vase.

Silsden, near Keighley, play in the premier division of the North West Counties League, kick off is 3pm. Any replay after extra time would take place at the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday, September 25.