The Twelfth Man turned out in force at West Auckland this afternoon for the game of the day in the FA Vase.
Unfortunately for the Railwaymen it was a bad day at the office, and although the sides were evenly matched throughout, a solitary goal for the home side separated the teams and saw Shildon exit this season’s tournament after just one match.
Shildon and West couldn’t have wished for a worse draw and the game proved to be a tight and tense affair with very few chances for either side.
There was no effort of note in the entire first 45 minutes and it was Shildon who should have taken the lead at the beginning of the second half when Ben Wood found space in the box and set up a glorious opportunity for himself.
But the normally composed finisher opted for power and, instead of calmly placing the ball into the inviting net, swiped wildly and sent it high and wide of the target.
It was a game in which the referee leaned heavily in favour the home side in his decision making and in the 65th minute, this tendency proved fatal for the visitors.
What appeared to be a free kick for Shildon when Mark Hudson was bundled to the ground was waved away by the official. However, he could not be blamed for the players’ failure to play on and, as they stopped to protest the foul, Garthwaite strode forward uncontested and drove a powerful shot high into the roof of the net from 20 yards.
Shildon almost equalised immediately, but a goalmouth scramble ricocheted harmlessly into Nixon’s arms.
Try as they might, Shildon could not find an equaliser and late in the game it took a goal line clearance to keep the score down to one-nil.
Unfortunately time ran out on last year’s FA Vase semi-finalists, but the Railwaymen can be consoled in the knowledge that they remain in top spot in the league and can now focus their attentions on an historic tilt at this season’s title.
The disappointment of the result will stay with the squad, the supporters and the town in the coming days, but this team of proven winners will be ready to go again in the league next Friday evening at Crook Town.