Disappointment as Town lose at home to Shields

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Morpeth Town fell to their first league defeat of the season against North Shields at Craik Park.

A goal in either half for the visitors secured the three points for the FA Vase winners in a game that the Highwaymen never really got going during.

Curtis Coppen opened the scoring in the 12th minute before James Luccock’s effort midway through the second half secured the win.

Nick Gray made five changes to the side that beat Bishop Auckland in the league cup midweek and looked sharp in the opening few minutes.

Sean Taylor went close to breaking the deadlock with a left-footed shot inside the area, only to see it sail over the bar.

North Shields rattled the woodwork in the sixth minute, midfielder Michael McKeown crashing a 25 yard free-kick off the crossbar.

On 12 minutes, the visitors took the lead after a Shields corner was only half cleared, falling to Adam Forster on the edge of the area. His low shot was only parried by Karl Dryden into the path of Curtis Coppen, who slotted home with the Town defence looking for an offside flag.

From that point on, Shields defended with two banks of four, frustrating Morpeth, who had the majority of possession, the centre-half pairing of Coppen and John Parker routinely handling crosses from the Town flanks.

The home side struggled to show the dominance that the home fans have become accustomed to with six wins in a row before today, but that was a credit to the defensive job North Shields did, hassling and pressing throughout the game.

Ben Sayer went close on the half-hour mark. After some one-touch football down the left wing, space eventually opened up for the midfielder to make a run at goal, his 20-yard effort flying over the crossbar.

The visitors nearly added a second a couple of minutes later. Luccock’s cross to the back post was headed back across goal by the Robins, Michael Hall clearing before Daniel Wilson could nod home, with both players needing treatment for a clash of heads.

Morpeth pushed for an equaliser before the half ended and came close on a couple of occasions. Lee McAndrew had an effort blocked in the six-yard box after a Shaun Henderson cross found him at the back post, before Taylor broke onto a Keith Graydon pass but skied his one-on-one effort against Shields stopper Sean McCafferty.

After the break, Morpeth continued to boss possession, but rarely troubled the stout Shields defence.

But just three minutes into the second half Michael Chilton almost pulled the Highwaymen level, a looping header lobbing McCafferty before clipping the top of the crossbar.

Morpeth persevered with getting the ball down the flanks and putting crosses in, and it almost came to fruition on the hour mark, Sayer’s ball across the six-yard box being a whisker away from being turned in by Chilton. It was eventually turned behind by the boys in red.

James Novak’s resulting corner found Jordan Fry at the near post unmarked, but he was unable to hit the target with his headed effort.

Shields netted a fortuitous second goal with 71 minutes played. After a free-kick was awarded in the Shields half, the visitors managed to get away with taking the free-kick 10 yards into Morpeth’s half.

Coppen’s diagonal ball was headed away by Michael Hall into the path of Luccock, whose first touch allowed David Hiftle to steal in.

His clearance, however, rebounded off Luccock’s shin and floated into the back of the Town net.