Shildon manager Gary Forrest told his players that nothing is definite yet as they closed in on the Ebac Northern League First Division title with a nervous 3-1 home win over Durham City on Saturday.
The Railwaymen must win their last league game at Bedlington Terriers on Wednesday night to clinch their first title since 1940 in their 125th year, and optimism was high on Saturday that they could achieve the second leg of their trophy quest following the news of Bedlington’s 6-2 home defeat by relegated Celtic Nation.
“It’s not over yet by any means,” said Forrest. “We know that Bedlington haven’t been playing well lately, but they’ll raise their game against us.
“We need to adopt the same attitude as we’ve been showing in these last few games. The players have been tremendous, they’ve performed well when it’s mattered.
“I think we were all a bit nervous on Saturday. I was at the ground before midday, and that’s something I’ve never done before. I don’t think that helped my frame of mind, it just made me more nervous.
“We didn’t start too well, but once we started getting the ball to feet and playing our normal game, we settled down.
“Lewis Graham pulled off a couple of good saves, but we had enough experience in the team to deal with the game.”
Durham took the lead after 10 minutes when Graham parried a low shot by Walid Abeid, and Ryan Noble scored from the loose ball.
Shldon got the equaliser they needed 8 minutes later, when Durham defender Nathan Lawrence handled a Mark Doninger shot, and Lee Scroggins scored from the spot.
Thy took the lead on 28 minutes when Jon Brackstone crossed from the left for Billy Greulich-Smith to head towards the bottom corner, and after Durham keeper Jordan Harkess parried his effort, Greulich-Smith reacted and turned the ball home.
The game was perhaps too much open considering what Shildon had at stake, and before half time Callum Patton hit the bar for Durham.
At the start of the second half, Shildon’s Bobby Moore headed a drive by Patton off the line, but then Shildon got a crucial third when a delicate cross from the left by Chris Emms was cleared only as far as Paul Connor, who volleyed perfectly left footed past Harkess.
Graham then made three good saves, one in particular low down from Patton, and that was enough to make sure that Shildon recorded their fourth win in the last five games and put them within sight of the title.
Durham manager Ian Chandler said; “I felt we gave as good as we got, but once again, we missed several really good chances. Their keeper made three good saves as did Jordan in our goal, I thought the referee couldn’t wait to give the penalty for the first goal. Their second third goals were balls into the box that we should have dealt with.”
Crisis club Crook Town lost their last game of the season by 5-0 at Whitley Bay.
Peter Watling gave Whitley an early lead, then Robbie Bird scored twice against his old club.
Watling got another before half-time, and in the second half Alex Kempster got the fifth.
Whitley Bay manager Paddy Atkinson said; “The lads did a professional job for the last game of the season.”
Crook manager Peter Mulcaster said; “We got off to a bad start and never recovered.”
Celtic Nation won their last away game in the league by 6-2 at Bedlington, even though they didn’t have a recognised goalkeeper between the posts.
James Earl and Dean Douglas put the Nation 2-0 up at half-time, then Lee Scott pulled a goal back.
Douglas and David Renyard made it 4-1, and after Jonathan Wright pulled a goal back, Dean Armstrong and Earl added further goals.
Bedlington have failed to win any of their last eleven league games.
West Auckland Town, who were title favourites in October when they topped the table, won their last game by 3-2 at Consett.
There were chances at both ends until the 29th minute when Jonny Gibson’s shot was spilled by the Consett keeper and Stephen Richardson took advantage.
Eight minutes later Matty Moffat, who once had a spell at Consett, back-heeled the ball for Richardson to fire the second.
Consett pulled a goal back through a powerful shot by Danny Craggs and on 56 minutes Luke Sullivan headed the equaliser.
West keeper Dan Lowson made three good saves, before West midfielder Alex Francis beat three defenders and fired home.
West Auckland manager Steve Skinner said; “It was nice to finish on a high and we played some really good football and showed team spirit today, which is always hard when it’s the final game of the season.”
FA Vase finalists North Shields were beaten by three first half goals at Sunderland RCA, all of them scored by Colin Larkin.
His perseverance forced a mistake out of the North Shields keeper which enabled him to open the scoring, then he scored the second from the penalty spot after Lewis Wood was fouled. He completed his hat-trick with a header from a James Armstrong cross.
North Shields assistant-manager Andy Bowman said; “We weren’t at it in the first half. They deserved the win, we didn’t create enough to win it.”
Sunderland RCA manager Marty Swales said; “We were top drawer and played very well in the first half. In the second half it was just a nothing game and we kept a clean sheet.
Penrith beat Newcastle Benfield 2-0 with goals by Martyn Coleman and Richard Faustino.
Newcastle Benfield manager Steve Bowey said; “We didn’t get the rub of the green. We gave away two poor goals. Penrith grafted and never let up. Fair play to them. We had as few chances but never really got going.”
Norton & Stockton Ancients assured themselves of the last promotion place from the Second Division with a comfortable 4-0 away win at Tow Law Town.
Norton also scored all their goals in the first half through Marcus Laing, Karl Charlton (2) and Rocky Andrews.
Norton manager Andy Campbell said; “We steamrollered Tow Law in the first half.”
Champions Seaham Red Star drew 2-2 at Darlington RA. Grant and Hickman and Darren Kokes scored for the RA, with Liam McBryde scoring both for Seaham to give him 27 in the league this season.
Washington beat Willington 4-1. James Fairley gave Washington the lead on 35 minutes, then Mark Davison scored twice after half-time.
Jason White pulled a goal back for Willington, before Michael Coghlan scored the fourth from 30 yards.
Washington manager Steve Hutchinson said; “Our attitude towards the game was spot on. We could easily have gone through the motions.”
Sunderland Ryhope CW finished sixth in the table after a goal by Jack Pounder gave them a 1-0 away win at Chester-le-Street.
Ryhope CW manager Gary Pearson said; “It was a steady 1-0 win. It was a great end to the season and leaves us a solid platform to build on. I can’t wait for July to start pre-season.
Chester-le-Street manager Colin Wake said; “It was a disappointing way to end the season with a defeat, but we didn’t do enough to win the game. A lot of heavy legs and no bodies on the bench to freshen things up when we needed it.”
Thornaby dropped from sixth to seventh after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Whickham.
Richard Walker scored for Thornaby and mark Fitzpatrick for Whickham Billingham Town lost 3-1 at home to Hebburn, who finished fifth.
Channon North set up Calvin McMahon to put Hebburn into the lead, then Chris Smith made it 2-0 with a header from a corner.
Stuart Browne pulled a goal back, but North scored his 40th league goal of the season to ensure victory.
Hebburn manager Scott Oliver said; “We had a look at a few things today. We got back to passing the ball, it was a pleasing day.”
Brandon United, who heard of their relegation reprieve from the league on Saturday morning, lost 4-0 at Alnwick. Kieran Egen (2), Tony Brown and Adam Shanks scored for Alnwick.
Northallerton Town lost 2-1 at home to Ryton & Crawcrook Albion.
Andrew Ramsbottom gave Northallerton the lead, but Ryan Burneyeat and Darren Graham responded for Ryton.