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North Shields 1 Stockton Town 1: Robins hold league leaders as unbeaten run continues

A late Kyle Patton goal ensured honours were even as the league’s two most in form sides shared the spoils on a chilly Wednesday evening.

Stockton Town took the lead one minute before the break when the ball was bundled over his own line by Gary Ormston, following a corner.

The goal came at a cost as Stockton captain Adam Nicholson sustained a deep facial cut and was substituted after a long delay.

Shields pressed hard for a leveller in the second half, with Patton and Cam Cunningham coming close.

However, with ten minutes to spare, Anchors keeper Callum Roberts cleared the ball into his own defender, leaving Patton with the simplest of finishes.

The Robins started brightly and in the fifth minute, Patton fed Cunningham the ball on the break, with the young winger cutting inside on his marker before firing a shot straight down Roberts’ throat.

Two minutes later, debutant Callum Smith tried his luck from 30 yards out, only for Roberts to make a comfortable save in the centre of the goal.

In the ninth minute, Stockton came close to  opening the scoring but a fantastic save from Bradley Skirpan, diving to his right, denied a Jordan Robinson freekick.

The Anchors were warming into the game and in the 13th minute, after Nathan Mulligan won the ball in the centre of the pitch, Jamie Owens’ strike on the angle forced a simple save from the teenage Shields keeper.

Midway through the first half, Owens once again was causing trouble in the Robins’ defence, with a close range shot ballooning over the crossbar.

With time running out in the first half, the away side kept pressing forward and in the 43rd minute, Skirpan excellently dived low to tip a Mulligan drive behind for a corner.

However, from the resulting corner, chaos in the goalmouth saw the ball bundled over the line by a red shirt, giving the Anchors the lead heading into the break.

Stockton, who had only conceded ten league goals before the game, were dealing well with what the Robins were throwing at them, with their defensive line making sure that their ‘keeper had as little to do as possible.

The Robins had to be patient in their play and in the 51st minute, Cunningham tried to test the shot stopper from the edge of the area, only for the ball to sail harmlessly wide.

Four minutes later, Smith once again tried his luck from distance, but his shot lacked power as it bounced into the welcoming arms of Roberts.

A closely fought contest was almost blown right open in the 66th minute, with Lewis King feeding the ball to Mulligan in acres of space in the penalty area.

Despite snatching at his shot, Craggs was at the far post to attack the ball, but could only hit the post.

With 20 minutes to go, the visitors were looking to double their one goal lead and in the 70th minute, substitute James Risbrough’s shot from the edge of the box was well blocked by a defender before the ball was cleared to safety.

Three minutes later, a deep cross into the box almost left Patton with a simple header to level the score, only for Roberts to punch the ball off his head before he could convert.

Shields thought they should have had a penalty in the 75th minute when it appeared Roberts had upended Patton on the edge of the six yard box. Despite cries from all around the ground, the referee waived the claims away.

The visitors were having to soak up a lot of pressure as the home side threw everything forward in search of a levelling goal.

Ultimately, in the 80th minute, that pressure paid off when Roberts smashed a back pass into the back of Tom Coulthard, leaving Patton with the simplest of finishes to deservedly bring the hosts level.

And the Robins almost had a winner with only moments left to play, when substitute Jamie Clark’s cross ultimately found Patton in the area. His shot was brilliantly tipped onto the base of the post by Roberts.

The draw sees the Robins stay in sixth but move level on points with fifth placed Billingham Town.