Boro draw in FA Cup battle
The FA Cup encounter was no classic, but it certainly showed enough of the muck and nettles attitude to encapsulate the vociferous crowd of 381 fans.
It seemed as though it wouldn’t be Boro’s day as the vital chances came and went, but centre-back Ben Middleton put his body on the line to convert in the latter stages to give his side a second bite of the cup cherry.
The hosts had the opportunities to seal their path into the next round in the dying embers, but Shields dug in to cling on for their lives and their place in the cup shake-up.
The game’s frenetic nature wasn’t apparent in the opening minutes as the sides clung onto the old adage of Sunday being a day of rest.
There were few focal points during this time apart from a couple of decent penalty shouts.
Boro’s Steve Ridley was heavy-handed on his man in the box, but referee Aaron Bannister swiftly shook his head.
Then, at the other end, Gary Bradshaw was felled under the weight of a North Shields challenge, but once again the ref turned his back.
The game continued in this vein until Boro finally pressed the accelerator and moved through the gears.
Unfortunately for the hosts they found loanee keeper David Morton in fine form.
Morton was at his best to keep out a curling effort from raiding midfielder James Bennett. He then pounced on a low shot after Ryan Blott wriggled free.
Boro went from the brilliant to the less than sublime though and some woeful defending handed their opponents a surprise lead.
A corner from the left bounced through a frozen home defence and Dean Walker poked home.
Jason White then had his palms stung as he clung on to a rasper from Ben Richardson.
White continued to keep Boro in the tie when his fingertip edged Dean Holmes’ shot away from the target.
Centre-back Steve Burton then flung himself infront of a strike from Walker after the striker had waltzed his way through the static Boro left-side.
Ridley was then withdrawn with a groin injury, handing Matty Plummer the chance to make an impression.
He did introduce a little more stability which allowed Boro to push on in the final minutes of the half.
Bradshaw sent a rising shot just over the North Shields bar and Jordan Thewlis shook off the shackles of his marker for the first time, but his weak effort was comfortably gathered.
The Boro changing room shook with the powerful words of assistant-manager Paul Foot at the break and that seemed to entice a little more creativity out of Boro.
Shields were stung by a blow when boss Graham Fenton was dismissed for arguing with the referee.
Boro’s huffing and puffing failed to produce any cutting edge chances though, that was until Middleton trudged his way forward for a succession of delicious Ryan Williams corners.
Middleton somehow managed to hook the first over from under the bar, then his powerful header was held by Morton.
Persistence paid off with 20 minutes remaining though, as Middleton rose once again and powered a header through a wall of North Shields shirts and into the bulging net.
Morton knew nothing about his next save when Bennett danced through two challenges and smashed an effort that was somehow kept out.
That was the last clear chance of a game that finished in aggressive fashion, marred by a clutch of bookings.
This was either down to the pace of the action or the fact that Mr Bannister failed to keep up.
Whichever conclusion can be drawn, there will be plenty more blood and thunder on Wednesday, though hopefully the cup lightning won’t strike twice on Boro after last season’s penalty exit at Penrith.