|skilltrainingltd League Division One||106|
|Saturday 4th October 2008||Chester-le-Street V Whitley Bay||4-3|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Resting key players ahead of an important FA Cup tie is a tactic that could turn out to be costly as far as Whitley’s challenge for the Northern League championship is concerned. Following their impressive victories over Hyde and Billingham Town in the previous seven days, they were odds on favourites to collect all three points against a Chester-le-Street side that had won only one league game this season.
However, they were two goals down after only six minutes, thanks to some very weak defending and despite a stirring comeback, they were sunk by an injury time winner for the home side.
With Darren Timmons and Leon Ryan both unavailable and David Coulson only on the bench, the defence had an unfamiliar look about it. In attack, both Paul Chow and Lee Kerr were missing from the starting line up, replaced by Woodhouse and Minto.
Uncertainty seemed the order of the day when with just 40 seconds played, Chester’s former Bay player Craig Price found himself clear in font of goal and fired a low shot past Terry Burke. In the sixth minute, with Whitley all at sea, Elliott Gardner made it 2-0 with a shot across the goalmouth into the far corner of the net.
With the strong wind and rain at their backs, Chester were doing virtually all of the attacking and with 17 minutes gone, a sweeping move downfield almost led to a third goal but Gardner, when clear on goal, shot straight at Burke, who made a comfortable save.
Whitley gradually fought their way back into the game with Brian Smith heading just over the bar when Anthony Woodhouse crossed from the right. After 27 minutes, the same combination helped Whitley to get back in the game. A right wing corner saw Smith head towards goal and when the ball was not cleared, Woodhouse pounced to tap it home from close range. Soon afterwards, a tactical substitution resulted in Lee Kerr coming on at the expense of Mark Taylor.
An equaliser almost followed two minutes after the change when Craig McFarlane’s cross from the left was deflected towards goal by Hassan, and only a fine save by keeper Aitken kept the ball out at the expense of a corner. Whitley were coming much more into the game now and Robinson was narrowly wide with a shot from distance. Seven minutes before the interval, the scores were level when Mark Minto hit the target from close range after Chris Moore had crossed from the right. More chances went Whitley’s way as they dominated the closing stages of the half, but with one minute remaining, slack marking allowed Gardner to put the home side back in front.
After the break, Whitley brought on Damon Robson, another regular who had been rested and within five minutes they were back on level terms. With Whitley now playing down the slope, Minto’s cross from the right found Woodhouse at the back post and his header looped over the keeper and into the net. With the scores level at 3-3, there was everything to play for and when David Coulson was brought off the bench, the Bay team had a much more familiar look about it. Chances were created but missed, with a goalmouth scramble causing chaos in the home defence. Moore’s cross was missed by three onrushing player, when the slightest touch would have resulted in a goal. Minto and Smith both went close to putting Whitley ahead in the closing stages but in stoppage time Whitley fell victims to a sucker punch, when with virtually their first real attack of the half, Chester snatched a late winner, Josh Home-Jackson applying the final touch after the home side broke away on the right wing.
Poor defending, especially in the first 20 minutes, allied to some surprising selection choices, contributed to this very disappointing performance. Despite these factors, Whitley could and should have won but wasted excellent chances in the second half.
On a day of surprising results, Consett were beaten 2-0 at Northallerton while Whitley’s FA Cup opponents Nantwich Town, were beaten 3-1 at Eastwood.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor(Kerr 31mins), Picton, Livermore, Coulson, Reay(Robson 45mins), Moore, McFarlane(Coulson 57mins), Minto, Woodhouse, Robinson.