|skilltrainingltd League Division One||359|
|Tuesday 8th September 2009||Whitley Bay V West Auckland Town||3-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley’s winning run continued against West Auckland but despite dominating the game for long periods it took a goal four minutes from time to ensure their sixth successive league victory. The win keeps Whitley in second place, three points behind Spennymoor but with two games in hand.Possibly with Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Guiseley in mind, Leon Ryan and Paul Chow were left out of the starting line up. Lee Kerr was unavailable and with Tom Kindley having been unwell the previous day, local goalkeeper Rob Rodgerson was drafted into the squad as emergency cover for the young Bay keeper.
Once again a blustery wind made conditions tricky, especially in the first half but Whitley adapted well, with some excellent passing and build up play from midfield. With eight minutes on the clock, Paul Robinson provided an opening for Damon Robson but he poked the ball just wide of goal. Three minutes later, an excellent cross into the goalmouth from Chris Moore should have led to the opening goal but Adam Johnston was off target when well placed. Moments later Phil Bell’s snap shot from a long through ball was only inches away from goal.
Following this period of sustained pressure Whitley became victims of a counter attack in the 19th minute when a cross from the right should have been collected by Kindley but he failed to cut out the ball and Anthony Hume headed home to put the visitors into a shock lead with the first league goal that Whitley had conceded this season at Hillheads.
Whitley quickly bounced back with Johnston and then Bell both having shots saved as the Auckland rearguard was fully tested. Whitley were playing some superb possession football and a slick move involving Fawcett, Bell, Hodgson and Johnston drew applause from the large crowd. With barely half an hour played, a wild high tackle by the aptly named West Auckland midfielder Lewis Hardman earned him a stern warning and a booking from the referee.
It began to look only a matter of time before Whitley got back in the game and so it proved with 35 minutes played. The hard working Phil Bell deservedly got on the score sheet producing a great finish into the left corner of the net after Adam Johnston had opened up the Auckland defence with a perfect pass after receiving the ball from Craig McFarlane.
Three minutes later, Adam Johnston left the field with a slight back strain and was replaced by Paul Chow. The West Auckland cause was done no good at all shortly before the interval when Hardman disrupted play by tugging a Bay player’s shirt in full view of the referee. This was his second bookable offence and as a result the referee had little option but to send him off.
It was all square at half time but the one man advantage was obviously going to favour the Bay in the second period so those who had predicted a big win for Whitley had reason to feel confident that the goals would flow.
As it turned out, Whitley lay siege to the visitors’ goal for much of the second half but dogged defending by the visitors kept them in the game. Paul Chow was extremely unlucky to see his first time effort from Chris Moore’s right wing cross hit the bar with Auckland keeper Gareth Young beaten. A three man move involving Robinson, Moore and Chow saw Whitley’s top scorer again frustrated as the ball flew just wide of the post. Damon Robson, who had been playing in a defensive role, was replaced by Leon Ryan and less than five minutes after coming on, Ryan put Whitley ahead with a thumping header from Chris Moore’s corner.
Whitley were really getting on top now and the Auckland goal had some remarkable escapes with Robinson repeatedly seeing shots from the edge of the area blocked by defenders, the ball sometimes cannoning away for corners which merely created further pressure for the visitors. Chris Moore, despite the attention of two or at times three defenders constantly got past them before whipping in crosses that just failed to find a Bay player or were put behind by overworked defenders. Midway through the half, Phil Bell was unlucky to see a goalbound effort cleared off the line by Richard Ward.
Eventually, West Auckland, still without a league win, began to sense that they could snatch a draw and that might well have happened but for good goalkeeping by Kindley. The young reserve keeper who has done remarkably well since Terry Burke’s injury redeemed himself following his first half mistake, pushing a shot from Adam Gell round the post. Then he did well to clear the ball after over elaborate play in midfield allowed the County Durham side to break away. Only minutes later it seemed certain that Stuart Irvine would score but with only Kindley to beat he blazed the ball high and wide of goal.
To the relief of the home fans, who again turned out in force on a cool and breezy evening, Whitley finally made the game safe a few minutes from time when after Chow had gone close, Richard Hodgson’s well placed cross to the back post was headed home at an acute angle by Chris Fawcett.
Whitley almost added a fourth but Moore, whose efforts had deserved a goal, saw his shot from the right saved by the feet of Young.
On another day, Paul Chow could have had a hat trick and the same could be said of Phil Bell, who had one of his best games for some time. The visitors deserve credit for their brave defending and this is something that Whitley and their fans will probably have to become used to, with sides coming to Hillheads content to put as many players as possible behind the ball and rely on breakaway moves to try and catch the Whitley defence off guard.
The noise level in the crowd of 359 seemed to grow as the game progressed and it is good to see an ever increasing number of younger fans and families at games both in the evening and at weekends.
The level of entertainment on offer can only encourage them to return, hopefully spreading the word as they do so.
WHITLEY BAY: Kindley, McFarlane(Anderson 68mins), Picton, Robson(Ryan 56mins), Coulson, Hodgson, Moore, Fawcett, Bell, Johnston(Chow 38mins) Robinson