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Match Report: Birtley Town 1 North Shields 3: Bainbridge at the double in penultimate pre-season friendly

Gareth Bainbridge scored twice as the Robins put in a professional performance to beat Birtley Town 3-1 in their penultimate pre-season fixture.

A lightning-quick early break on goal saw Shields take the lead, following a calm finish from Bainbridge.

The record-breaking striker added a second moments later with a fiercely struck shot from the edge of the six yard box

Craig Spooner scored a third midway through the first half, curling his shot past the helpless home keeper.

And despite the hosts scoring a consolation goal late in the second period, the Robins comfortably held on for the win, with the regular season less than a fortnight away.

Despite the result, it was the hosts who started on the front foot and after only five minutes, a great save from Purvis was the only thing standing in the way of an opening goal for Birtley.

That miss only lit a fire underneath the Robins as sixty seconds later, Paul Robinson tried his luck from range, only to curl his effort, from the corner of the box, just wide of the top left corner.

It didn’t take long for Shields to reap the rewards of their dominance when a great pass from Chris McDonald and a great piece of individual skill from Paul Van-Zandvliet released Bainbridge on goal.

With only the Birtley Town keeper standing in his way, Bainbridge confidently fired a low shot, from just inside the box, into the back of the net after 11 minutes.

The attacking didn’t stop there when in the 17th minute, Andrew Cartwright released Spooner down the right wing, before the midfielder tried picking Bainbridge out in the centre of the box.

With the striker winding up to shoot, a recovering Birtley defender was able to throw his body in the way of the ball, denying Bainbridge his second of the day.

But only three minutes later, the Robins were not to be denied when Bainbridge thundered an effort from close range into the back of the net, following another excellent display of passing from the visitors.

Shields were unstoppable at times during the first half, with Ryan Carr inches away from adding a third to the score in the 22nd minute, after Bainbridge had broken free from his marker before feeding the ball to his teammate.

The Hoops responded well to being put under so much pressure, but after winning a freekick out wide, their number three was only able to head the ball well wide of the goal.

After breaking Don Winskill’s post-war goal scoring record last season, Bainbridge was playing like a man possessed, almost finishing off a great flowing move involving Cartwright, Carr, Spooner and Robinson in the 31st minute.

He came even closer not long afterwards, when Cartwright was afforded far too much space on the right flank, but despite working space for himself in the penalty area, Bainbridge wasn’t able to turn the fullback’s cross home.

Just before the half time break, Van-Zandvliet was the next in line to try his luck on the Birtley goal, but after being picked out by another wonderful cross into the box, his driven effort was directed wide of the upright.

It didn’t take long into the second half for Shields to register yet another chance on goal, with Bainbridge once again at the heart of the move, having broken through on goal, but his effort took a touch from the keeper before being cleared off the line by a recovering defender.

Birtley were not out of this game and in the 67th minute, after skipping through the Shields defence, the Hoops forward saw his effort brilliantly saved by Purvis, who needed to be alert with little to do.

However, only one minute later, the Robins had their third of the game when Spooner was able to break the Birtley offside trap before racing clean through on goal and curling an unstoppable effort into the bottom right corner.

With the hosts beginning to tire, a fresh wave of Shields substitutions almost helped the visitors to a fourth of the day. Cunningham, who had made a bright start to the game since coming on, was alert to intercept a defensive pass, before seeing his shot deflect off the home shot-stopper and dribble wide.

The hosts were able to reduce the Robins lead to two in the 77th minute, after poor defending handed the Birtley forward a prime opportunity to fire past Purvis.

After conceding an avoidable goal, Shields responded well, with Cunningham dribbling his way past tiring defenders before teeing up Carr, whose driven effort from the edge of the box was collected by the keeper at the second attempt.

With minutes remaining, the hosts were giving their all to reduce the lead to one, with a cleverly taken freekick catching the visiting defence out however, with the goal at his mercy, the Birtley attacker blazed his effort well over from close range.

But they were unable to further trouble Purvis as the Robins comfortably secured another pre-season win.