Stockton Town FC v North Shields
North Shields visited Bishopton Road for the first ever time today hoping to gain revenge for the League Cup defeat they suffered a week ago to an injury time winner. Michael Dunwell had almost a full squad to chose from for a change, Fred Woodhouse failed a fitness test and was rested for next weeks Vase game. Nathan Mulligan and Kevin Hayes were restored to the team and Joe Carter replaced Matty Garbutt.
An impeccably observed minutes silence preceded the kick off in memory of Bill Higgins who sadly passed away this week
The Anchors started the brighter and enjoyed lots of possession, on 9 minutes a nice little move found Stockton on the edge of the box his reverse pass put Owens in, not for the last time Shields keeper Robinson intervened and saved Owens effort only to see see it spin up and over his head towards the goal, the scrambled clearance fell to Hayes 8 yards out with the goal at his mercy however full back Summerly made a terrific last ditch challenge to deny him. From the resulting corner Dale Mulligans free header was wide of the mark. The Robins first attack saw McFarlane play in Wilson but his back heel was saved by Jordan. A Craggs Free Kick on 20 minutes found Nathan Mulligan free 14 yards out but a bad connection with his header saw it fly wide of the post as Stockton ramped up the pressure. Kev Hayes was in the mood today and cleverly cut inside two players on 23 minutes, his cross was met by Stockton on the volley for what looked like a certain goal until Robinson made a brilliant save at close quarters. However Robinson could do nothing about the opener it was the irrepressible Kevin HAYES marking his return from suspension by cutting in from the right, skipping past the full back and delivering a superb fizzing curling left footer in the far corner from 22 yards to give the Anchors a deserved lead on 24 minutes. The Robins hit back straight away the Anchors had gone to sleep and allowed McFarlane to drift onto a nice pass to convert only for it to be ruled offside. Shields took heart from that and grew into the game finishing stronger and it was McFarlane again on 37mins who capitalised on some hesitation to race in on goal and slip the ball past Jordan only to see it go narrowly wide.
Second half saw a more determined Robins side and they started to assert some authority after another bright opening spell from the Anchors, in a period of limited chances a Stockton free kick was cleared and found its way to MASON who raced half the length of the pitch gliding by any attempts to stop him and finished assuredly into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to tie the game up on 71mins, just 4 minutes later a Craggs free kick worked the keeper and after the rebound shot was also blocked the ball. Shields played up the field quickly over the top of Stockton's defence leaving sub BAINBRIDGE to run clear and slide the ball cooly past Jordan to make it 2-1. The Robins were working hard now and making it difficult for Stockton to get their wingers into the game and their defence was holding strong too. They restricted Stockton to just a couple of efforts, one was from a superb Garbut cross which was met by Craggs who just directed his header wide of the post. As the Anchors went in search of an equaliser BAINBRIDGE was left unmarked to seal the game in the 89th minute with a well struck half volley past Jordan.
A disappointing result after a good start to this game for Stockton, but a lesson in what it takes to be a top 6 side in this ultra competitive League. North Shields are a very good side with a lot of talented players who showed that quality in the second half once they got back in the game they wouldn't be denied. The Anchors should take heart from how close they ran them and the fact that keeper Robinson was superb between the sticks and deserved his MoM award. Kev Hayes got the match sponsor's COVERALL-PVC man of the match pick for his 'goal of the season' contender. Onto a massive FA Vase last 16 tie next week with the visit of Stourport Swifts to Teesside.