Promising start to league return

STL NORTHERN LEAGUE, DIVISION TWO

Alnwick Town...1 North Shields...1

ALNWICK Town marked their return to the Northern League with an encouraging 1-1 draw against North Shields, who are hotly-tipped for promotion this season.

The St James Park outfit, back in the Northern League after a four-season long absence, had Adam Shanks to thank after the youngster grabbed an all-important equaliser seven minutes from time.

But the point was just what newly-promoted Alnwick deserved.

The black ‘n’ whites more than matched their opponents, opening their Division Two account with a heartening performance which will give them belief that they can re-establish themselves at this level.

Reflecting on the opening day draw, Town’s joint manager Dougie McEwan, who is sharing the role with Stephen Gibbard, said: “We were delighted with the way everybody played and we have still got three or four players to come into the squad.

“In the end, we were unlucky not to snatch it but a draw was a fair result.

“Our main aim is to stop in this division. If we do any better, then that is a bonus.”

The 2011/12 curtain-raiser was played in front of a crowd of around 160 people, with about 60 Shields fans making the trip north.

And the first real chance of the game fell to the visitors after 20 minutes but Keith Douglas’ 25-yard chip sailed over the crossbar.

Alnwick’s best opportunity of the half fell to Ben Keenan, but the Town hitman opted to pass instead of shoot when he was through on goal and Shields managed to clear the danger.

Town flew out of the blocks in the second half, playing some nice football and penning the Robins into their own half.

But for all of Alnwick’s attacking endeavour, it was Shields who grabbed the opener, with the experienced Andy Hay scoring a screamer just after the hour mark.

The substitute turned on the edge of the box and curled a left-footed effort into the roof of the net to put the Robins one-up.

But Alnwick were not to be denied and they got their just rewards late on in the game when the impressive Shanks levelled the scores, converting from an acute angle from six-yards out.

And in the game’s dying moments, Alnwick very nearly completed a fairytale return to Northern League when James Swordy hit a left-foot shot from the edge of the box – only to see his effort well-saved and tipped round the post by the Shields keeper.

All-in-all it was an encouraging start to life in the Northern League and Town thoroughly deserved their draw, playing well against a Robins team who narrowly missed out on promotion to Division One last season.

Goal-scorer Shanks was named as Alnwick’s man-of-the-match, but Gary Patterson was also picked out for praise after he gave a solid performance.

Alnwick play their first away game of the season on Saturday when they travel to Thornaby. Kick-off 3pm.

Alnwick then host Thornaby on Tuesday night, with the St James Park clash starting at 7.30pm.

Both matches are Northern League, Division Two fixtures.

Alnwick Town (v North Shields) from: Brian Brooks, Michael Armstrong, Daniel Rose, Neil Catlow, Bryan Murray, Gary Patterson, Tom MacPherson, Alex Makin, Scott McMullen, Ross MacKenley, Tony Brown, Paul Hodge, James Swordy, Ben Keenan, Adam Shanks, Stephen Gibbard.

Match sponsor: Kitson Windows.

Pizza Royale man-of-the-match: Adam Shanks.

l Alnwick Town played their second Northern League, Division Two match of the season last night, when they faced West Allotment Celtic at St James Park.

l A race afternoon is being held at The Alnwick Gate, on the town’s Clayport Street, this Sunday, starting at 2.30pm. The event is in aid of club funds. All welcome.