A week ago, last Saturday, Shildon atoned for their previous midweek’s 2-0 defeat at Newcastle Benfield by striking a blow at Marske United’s title hopes when a last minute Lee Scroggins penalty at Dean Street earned the Railwaymen a deserved 2-1 win.
Speaking after the Marske game, Shildon manager, Gary Forrest reflected on the defeat a few days earlier, observing that the team had reverted to forcing the play, a predilection that hadn’t been witnessed in the side for a considerable time – possibly longer than a season.
In doing so, as past experience had proved, the artificial effort more often than not led to errors that, more often than not, negated the intended purpose. Benfield are more than capable of meting out the inevitable punishment, which they duly did, but what Forrest was keen to emphasise was the rarity of Shildon’s lapse.
He won’t find any disagreement here. What has been noticeable about this Shildon side over the past two seasons is their ability to react positively to defeat with a sustained unbeaten run that perhaps makes the Benfield result a blessing in disguise.
It brought a run of eight successive wins to a halt (six of which were league matches) and refocussed the side just as their main title rivals were heading to Dean Street. The victory over Marske completed the double over the club closest to Shildon in the title hunt, its manner undoubtedly striking a psychological as well as a competitive blow to the Seasiders’ ambitions.
Indeed on this afternoon, when Shildon brushed aside second bottom Sunderland RCA, Marske suffered a second successive defeat to fall significantly behind the Railwaymen. Shildon will now have an opportunity to stretch five points away should they overcome Billingham Synthonia – a side they knocked out of the League Cup this midweek – when they visit the Synners on Wednesday evening.
Marske’s loss to Jarrow Roofing also meant that Shildon who, with Dunston on FA Vase duty were guaranteed to move up one place with any result, earned the added bonus of climbing two notches on the league ladder to finish the afternoon in fourth position.
Shildon began the day having played the second least number of games in the league this season (26) and played host to the only side to play fewer matches. RCA had played just twenty-three matches, during which time they had collected twenty-two points.
The Ryhope club are languishing in the drop zone, but like their Dean Street opponents at the opposite end of the table, they have games in hand over their rivals. Their recent flirtations with relegation also provide them with the experience to overcome their current difficulties and it was the task of Shildon in this match to ensure the RCA recovery would be delayed by at least one more game. The club will face the proverbial six-pointer on Tuesday evening when they return to South West Durham to play fellow strugglers, Newton Aycliffe.
It took until the midway point of the first half for Shildon’s dominance in this game to earn its reward. Ironically, the opening goal was the end result of a rare RCA break which almost ended with Lee Chapman’s defensive header nestling in the wrong goal. Instead RCA’s corner was held by Kyle Hayes who launched a break that ended with Ben Wood’s pass across the six yard box to give Chris Emms the simplest task of slamming home from close range.
It was Emms who set Shildon on to victory against RCA in the same fixture last season. On that occasion he scored a brace in a 4-0 win and it was a case of deja vu as the half time break approached when a ball to Mickey Rae was controlled and laid off for Emms to double the lead and repeat his feat of the previous season.
RCA began the second half the more sprightly with Shildon perhaps thinking the job had already been done. But the RCA pressure refocussed minds and the Railwaymen soon reasserted themselves. The third Shildon goal arrived in 65 minutes when Billy Greulich-Smith rose to flick a long free kick on to Rae. The striker twisted his opponent inside and out before returning the ball for Greulich-Smith to lash home from corner of the six yard box.
Immediately from the kick off it was four-nil. Ben Wood this time given the simplest of tasks to tap into an empty net as the RCA resistance evaporated.
Mark Doninger entered the fray with Mickey Rae making way and with fifteen minutes still to play he demonstrated to his teammate – who had placed an attempted chip of the keeper narrowly wide in the first half – just how to execute the lob with an exquisite finish which sneaked in off the underside of the bar.
RCA, well beaten, from somewhere conjured the resolve to nullify the Railwaymen’s clean sheet bonus. Hayes failed to catch a high ball which was cleared to the edge of the box and while the defence claimed foul on the keeper, Stephen Callen kept his eye on the ball to volley home a consolation through a forest of players.
Shildon could not have asked for a more comfortable result in another potential banana skin of a game, but this is a group that understands that the road to eventual league victory is pitted, the trick being to land in as few pot holes as possible; this one proved relatively effortless to negotiate.
Next up, the visit to Synners on Wednesday provides the added incentive for Shildon of a further move up the table to third, three points behind league leaders, West Auckland who then, next Saturday, come calling.
SHILDON: Hayes, Harwood, Jones, Moore, Chapman, Hodgson (Taylor, 78), Scroggins (Ellison, 75), Emms, Wood, Greulich-Smith, Rae (Doninger, 66). Subs not used: Brackstone, Richardson.
GOALS: Emms (25, 45); Greulich-Smith (65); Wood (66); Doninger (76). CARDS: None.
SUNDERLAND RCA: Carmichael, Jury, Weldon, Brown, Bythway, Rowe (Bogie, 45), Charlton, Megran, Preston, Callen, Wood. Subs: Davis, Richardson, Austin-Wilson, Morris.
GOALS: Callen (83). CARDS: None.