Picture: George Davidson
Morpeth Town had to settle for a draw following a fiercely competitive clash at North Shields.
In a ding-dong clash, Liam Henderson opened the scoring for the visitors before Ben Harmison cancelled that out just before half-time.
Stephen Elliott – the former Sunderland and Republic of Ireland international – started on the bench, with Ben Sayer in from the start following the injury to Stephen Turnbull during midweek. Mark Davison was also brought into the starting line-up as Town opted for a twin strike-force.
Morpeth started much the stronger of the two sides, with keeper Karl Dryden enjoying a quiet start to the encounter.
Despite a low-lying sun causing visibility problems for Town, they began with intent as Davison and then David Carson had shots blocked in the area in the 18th minute. Even though there was no end product, the build-up play was quick and brimming with quality. As for the hosts, a few dangerous crosses were all they could muster in the opening 20 minutes.
The Robins’ first chance of note came in the 26th minute when a corner from the left flashed across goal. With no-one able to head it goalwards, Kevin Hughes found himself unmarked at the back post. However his side-foot was straight at Dryden as the danger passed.
The home side were starting to move through the gears and had another sight of goal three minutes later. But, after former Highwaymen Richard Pell let the ball run across the edge of the area, Ryan Carr could only blast wide when well placed. The midfielder really should have done better.
On 32 minutes, Henderson showed him how to do it. The striker, after being played in behind the Robins defence, slotted home from inside the area to give Morpeth the lead at a crucial time of the game.
The hosts were up for the scrap though and equalised nine minutes later, Harmison guiding the ball in from six yards after Dean Holmes’ delivery in from the left.
Although Morpeth continued with their strong grip of possession in the second half, it was North Shields who created the next clear-cut chance in the 57th minute. After Gareth Bainbridge played Holmes in behind, the midfielder raced clear and smashed a shot goalwards. But Dryden made himself big and pulled off a fine save to deny the hosts.
The Highwaymen were starting to create chances themselves after the hour mark and so nearly took the lead once again on 65 minutes. After David Carson had burst into the box on the right, he lashed a cross to Davison who side-footed towards goal. However a mixture of keeper Sean McCafferty and a defender somehow managed to block the shot and keep the scores level.
Elliott then made his first appearance for Morpeth, coming off the bench on 67 minutes, as his side went in search of a crucial second goal.
The striker came within inches of getting his first goal in his maiden game on 80 minutes. After Chris Reid’s lashed cross from the left was pushed clear, the former Republic of Ireland international sent the rebound inches wide.
The visitors continued to press with a succession of crosses, but could have lost the game in stoppage time had Holmes’ shot from the left deflected in off the post instead of out.
There was still time to see Reid sent off for a second yellow card as both sides, despite their efforts, had to settle for a point.
Morpeth are next in action on Saturday when they host Ryhope CW (3pm).
NORTH SHIELDS: McCafferty, Robson, Summerly, Ormston, Pell, Hughes, McFarlane, Carr (Robinson 89), Bainbridge (Wilson 73), Harmison, Holmes.
SUBS NOT USED: Hayes, Groves, Bell.
GOALS: Harmison (41)
MORPETH TOWN: Dryden; Forster, Coppen, Carson, Reid, Sayer (Fry 81), Graydon, David Carson (Elliott 67), Phillips, Henderson, Davison.
SUBS NOT USED: Turner, Walton, Moorcroft.
GOALS: Henderson (32)