North Shields 2 Guisborough Town 3 (Ebac Northern League – Division One)

JUST two weeks ago, Guisborough Town Manager Gary Forster boldly predicted that on their day and with a full squad that his team could “beat any team in the Northern League.” And that’s precisely what the revitalised Priorymen achieved at second-in-the-table North Shields on Saturday when Guisborough produced a pulsating performance to win 3-2 and lift themselves further away from the relegation danger zone.

It was only two very late Shields consolation goals which gave the scoreline a semblance of respectability for the home side as the Priorymen extended their impressive unbeaten run since the start of the New Year to six matches. While the lion’s share of the glory on the day went deservedly to Guisborough’s hat-trick hero striker Mason McNeill, team boss Gary also paid special tribute to 18-year-old Joe Morley, who produced an outstanding display in midfield.

Guisborough caught their high-flying hosts by surprise by dominating the first half and deservedly taking the lead after only seven minutes through McNeill following some great work by his midfield team-mate Ben Hugill. Guisborough goalkeeper and skipper Jordan Nixon had earlier saved his side after just three minutes when he did well to thwart a shot from Gareth Bainbridge who had burst through on goal.

Almost immediately after that, Hugill headed just wide following a Guisborough free kick. But Hugill was in the thick of things against just moments later in the seventh minute. First, Hugill saw his shot blocked but the ball came straight back to him and he threaded through a perfect pass to McNeill who slotted home past Shields ‘keeper Sean McCafferty.

Guisborough continued to call the shots literally as the first half progressed and came close to increasing their one-goal lead when leading scorer Steve Roberts burst into the penalty area but saw his shot turned round the corner by Shields ‘keeper McCafferty. And just before half-time McNeill had a great opportunity to double Guisborough’s lead following more good work by Roberts but his effort went high and wide on this occasion.

Shields started more positively after half-time but Lee Mason saw his fierce shot from just outside the penalty crash back off the Guisborough crossbar. Despite that scare, Guisborough continued to control the game and they doubled their lead to 2-0 in the 58th minute when McNeill slotted home past McCafferty from close range. Shields then went close to pulling a goal back with a Mason free-kick from 30-yards which was just off-target.

With Shields pressing hard to get back into the game, Guisborough were looking to exploit the gaps being left by the ‘Robins’ at the back and efforts by Morley and Roberts flew narrowly wide. With only five minutes to go, Guisborough thought they had put the game beyond doubt with McNeill scoring from close range to complete a superb hat-trick and make it 3-0 to the Priorymen.

But Shields surged forward in the faint hope of getting back in to the game and they grabbed what looked like a consolation goal as Wilson headed home from close range three minutes from time. Wilson then scored a second goal in the 91st minute goal to make it 2-3 but it was a classic case of too little too late for Shields who had left themselves with just too much to do.

Guisborough weathered the unlikely Shields revival bid to hold on to the final whistle for a thrillingly memorable victory - to the delight (and relief!) of their faithful fans and officials alike amongst a healthy crowd of 251.

Manager Gary Forster said, “I was literally over the moon after this tremendous result and even managed to enjoy a glass of red or two on Saturday night on the back of what was a fantastic all-round team display. I thought the performance was especially satisfying considering the difficult playing conditions on North Tyneside, which didn’t suit our normal game one bit.”

“But the lads implemented our game plan to perfection, although I was a touch disappointed to concede two late goals - which made the final scoreline much more flattering from North Shields’ point of view. But that didn’t stop me enjoying the win and celebrating a little later on!”

“The endeavour all my players showed throughout the match defied belief at times,” Gary continued. “I was delighted at young Joe Morley, playing in his favoured position in central midfield. Joe was outstanding for a young teenager playing against proven older and much more experienced opponents. Obviously, I was also particularly pleased too for our striker Mason McNeill who has had some difficult times over the past 12 months - but he has stuck at it and I thought his general play was superb and he took all three of his goals very well,” added a highly-delighted Gary.

Guisborough now look forward to their next league match at Ryhope CW tomorrow followed by a derby meeting at Billingham Synthonia on Friday, 16 February.