|FA Cup 3rd Round Qualifying||797|
|Saturday 11th October 2008||Whitley Bay V Nantwich Town||1-5|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley’s FA Cup run is over for another season after they were outplayed in the second half by Unibond Premier Division side Nantwich Town. The Cheshire team, two divisions above Whitley in the non league pyramid, were clearly well prepared and gave no space at all to in-form winger Chris Moore, who tore the Hyde United defence apart in the previous round. The great majority of the near 800 spectators were left stunned as the visitors scored four times in the last 25 minutes to earn a place in the final qualifying round together with £7,500 in prize money.
The one surprise in Whitley’s starting line up was the absence of top scorer Paul Chow, who was on the substitutes’ bench. His place in attack went to Anthony Woodhouse. It emerged that Chow, who had just returned from holiday, was not fully match fit.
The game got underway in perfect conditions and the signs for Whitley were quite promising in the early stages, with three crosses into the goalmouth that only needed a finishing touch. Two eluded both sets of players but Leon Ryan did make contact with the third, only to put the ball well over the bar under pressure from Nantwich defender Darren Tinson. Had one of these chances been taken, the outcome of the game might have been different, but after 12 minutes, in what was virtually their first attack, Nantwich took the lead following a flowing move that cut through the Bay defence. Blackhurst went past Lee Picton on the wing, played the ball in to Peter Heler whose quick pass found Michael Lennon unmarked in front of goal and he beat Burke from about ten yards.
Whitley retaliated and earned a free kick in a dangerous position 20 yards from goal, but the chance was wasted. Just past the half hour, Paul Robinson produced a great 25 yard shot that Nantwich keeper Lee Jones pushed over the bar and a few minutes later, the hard working Robbie Livermore created an opening for himself but his shot went just the wrong side of the post.
Nantwich might have gone further ahead shortly before the interval when Shotton crossed for Griggs to head straight at Burke with the goal at his mercy.
With only one goal separating the sides at half time, there was still everything to play for and straight from the restart, Whitley had a glorious chance to draw level when Livermore played Woodhouse through on goal but he blazed the ball over the bar. Minutes later, Picton’s long throw was headed on by Ryan to Woodhouse, whose header was saved by Jones. Ryan then put the ball into the side netting from Robinson’s free kick as Whitley tried to get back in the game.
A double substitution saw Chow and McFarlane replace Livermore and Picton and within six minutes Chow had put Whitley level. The goal came when defender Richard Smith mistimed a back header to his keeper from Lee Kerr’s flick and Chow pounced to fire the ball past Jones from eight yards. This maintained his remarkable record of scoring in every round of the FA Cup and was his sixth goal in the competition this season.
The goal raised spirits among the fans and gave Whitley hope of victory but it also seemed to galvanise the Cheshire side and they stepped up the pace. Six minutes later, a tremendous solo effort from impressive striker, Michael Lennon put the visitors back in front after he went past a series of players including Burke before firing the ball into the top corner of the net. Seven minutes later, Bishop Auckland born Lennon completed his hat-trick and ten minutes from time he put the result beyond doubt with his fourth goal as Whitley’s defence collapsed. A minute from time, impressive left winger Danny Griggs added the fifth goal with a shot into the bottom corner.
The final score was rather harsh on Whitley, who competed well for an hour but the clinical finishing of Nantwich was crucial as they made their higher status count.
It was a shame that in front of a big crowd, with Radio Newcastle providing live commentary throughout the 90 minutes and ITV filming the game, Whitley could not have raised their game more, but to put their achievement into perspective, no Northern League team has been more successful in the FA Cup this season and Whitley have received prize money of almost £10,000 for their victories in the four previous rounds. Roll on the FA Vase!
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor, Picton(McFarlane 53mins), Livermore(Chow 53mins), Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Robson, Kerr, Woodhouse, Robinson(Minto 72mins)