This was a one-sided affair. Even more so than the scoreline suggests, with one first half shot finding the wrong side of the upright and Mark Hudson’s 100% penalty conversion record coming to an end with his unlucky thirteenth in the second half.
Countless corners and a number of last ditch blocks and saves prevented Shildon from notching the highest goals tally of a day that saw 41 scored across seven Division One ties (that accolade went to Ashington, who netted eight times at bottom side Billingham Town).
However, there weren’t many in the ground prepared to denigrate Hebburn’s performance. Most were sympathetic of their plight, being abandoned as they were in the summer by their management team and entire player squad, all of whom decamped to Jarrow.
The makeshift side, hastily assembled in the close season, were no competition for a strong Shildon and, unfortunately for an otherwise well-respected club, their chances of remaining in the top division look remote indeed.
That said, Shildon, for all their dominance, went in to the half time break with a two goal lead consisting of two fortunate strikes. Of course, as the old adage reminds us, diligence is the mother of good luck, and it wasn’t for want of creating chances that Shildon’s total wasn’t greater in the first forty-five.
Paul Connor, who had seen one shot on the turn cannon off the upright, did his best to get out of the road of Lee Scroggin’s shot on 14 minutes. However, fortunately for him and for the home side, the shot, which was going wide, found his shin and deflected past the helpless Andrew Hunter in the Hebburn goal.
It took until the final seconds of the half before the Railwaymen found the net again, and again it was a goal of good fortune. The ball was swept wide to the marauding Darren Richardson on the left and his cross sailed over Hunter and under the bar. His own bemusement at the nature of the goal was confirmation, if it was needed, that the strike was not premeditated.
In the second half, the floodgates opened, although the defences were briefly held back by Hunter when he saved a Mark Hudson penalty. Hudson himself was fouled and rose to place the ball on the spot for the thirteenth time in his Shildon career. The previous twelve had been dispatched successfully, but whether superstition got the better of him or not, this effort was probably his weakest to date. In saying that, Hunter had to travel and drop low to his left in order to make a fine stop.
It was a mere finger in a widening crack and within minutes, the defences collapsed and the runaway Railwaymen flooded the net with four more goals in short order.
Billy Greulich-Smith, who had replaced Sam Garvie, was on hand to nod Richardson’s cross into the path of Ben Wood who swept the ball home from 12 yards.
Just two minutes later, a Mark Hudson corner once more found the head of the tall Greulich-Smith. In the subsequent scramble the ball was headed out to the eighteen-yard box, only for Richardson to thunder an unstoppable rocket past the rooted goalkeeper.
Then Ben Wood collected the ball from Jamie Harwood and, with a smart turn, left the defence trailing. Paul Connor, in an acre of space in the box, deftly controlled Wood’s pass and sold the goalkeeper the opposite way before tapping into a now empty net.
With more than 15 minutes remaining on the clock, Hebburn were hit for six when man-of-the-match, Ben Wood, collected the third brace of the day.
Wood, whose footballing career looked to be cut devastatingly short last season as the result of a serious bone illness, has been a revelation this season. Where last season he may have held on to the ball for too long at times, this season he is already stretching away at the top of the assists chart, having set up a third of the side’s goals so far. And with his second strike of this game – a fierce angled drive from the corner of the six yard box – he also takes over at the top of the scoring chart with five for the season.
The medical staff are constantly monitoring his condition and, with Ben in this magnificent form, everyone at the club will be hoping he can be kept fit, if not for all of it, then for as much of the season as possible.
With the game well out of sight, the rampant Railwaymen eased down the gears, satisfied with their day’s work. Hebburn may have feared further humiliation, but neither their adversaries nor the spectators were clamouring for more. The afternoon’s goals were scored and Shildon left the field at full time to a standing ovation.