|skilltrainingltd League Division One||535|
|Saturday 24th October 2009||Spennymoor Town V Whitley Bay||1-0|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley’s unbeaten start to the Northern League season ended when they lost to the only goal of the game at their nearest rivals Spennymoor Town on Saturday. Few could dispute that Spennymoor were the better team on the day but although the County Durham side are now level on points, Whitley remain top of the table by virtue of their much superior goal difference.With the two sides well clear of the chasing pack and with only one defeat between them in their opening 15 games, this encounter was eagerly awaited by both sets of fans. Whitley supporters turned up in force and must have made up almost half of the bumper 535 crowd at the Brewery Field ground.
We started quite well, had a couple of chances in the first 10 minutes, then we lost our way badly during the remainder of the 1st half, our passing, movement and defending was not what I’m use to, this resulted in inviting Spennymoor forward and thus resulted in a badly defended goal, but it was a good shot which beat young Tom.
Then there was the sending off incident, which the referee did not see, so took his guidance from the linesman who was 50 yards away, I think the officials took the easy option and sent both players off.
The 2nd half was a little better, we ended up playing 2 at the back for the last 20 minutes which resulted in us giving spennymoor 4 or 5 chances, however we did look a little more lively and created 3 or 4 half chances, 1 in particular which Davey Coulson was unlucky not to score with.
Overall a bad performance by us, against what the Spennymoor’s manager said was the best they have played, so I am disappointed but looking forward to the rematch with no concerns.
I thought Spennymoor were a good team on the day, they were compact and had some tricky players which did cause us problems. They obviously have the look of Durham City (a Lee Collins team, quick & decisive) from last year.
The injuries we picked up are a major concern, we currently have the following 6 player struggling for the weekend: Craig McFarlane (out for 4 weeks), Chris Fawcett (knee damage), Callum Anderson (Knee problem after 2 footed tackle), David Coulson (ankle injury), Leon Ryan (Foot injury), Damon Robson (rib injury). We are also missing Richard Hodgson – suspended and Mark Taylor – gaining fitness, so all in all a very costly game, the loss of points was trivial compared to the injury list.
The injuries may change the approach to Tow Law, but we (Cugs, Pickers & myself) feel Saturday was a minor blip which we will put right on Saturday, the lads are disappointed in themselves and we expect a massive response v Tow Law.
The game began in difficult conditions with driving rain sweeping across the ground in a blustery wind. Whitley were playing down the slope and they might have taken the lead inside a minute, when Chris Fawcett raced down the left wing, crossed into the penalty area where Paul Robinson fired in a low shot which was cleared off the line by Lewis Dodds. Fawcett was tripped as he broke away again but Moore’s free kick from the left edge of the penalty area was too long and the wind carried the ball out of play. Whitley were being urged on by their vociferous fans, the majority of whom were grateful for the shelter of the covered stand behind the Spennymoor goal.
With five minutes played, the home side won a free kick around 25 yards from goal and Keith Graydon drilled the ball not far wide of Kindley’s right hand post.
Whitley responded with Kerr and Bell combining well but the final pass was too far in front of Adam Johnston with the Town defence struggling to get back in time.
Gradually, play evened out with Spennymoor settling and coming much more into the game. The rain was easing and by the half hour mark, conditions had improved dramatically with the wind not so strong and the ground bathed in sunshine. Whitley were starting to misplace passes and as a result came under increasing pressure. The home side threatened when Capper played the ball across goal but Michael Rae’s shot flew high over the bar. A quick break downfield by Whitley saw Moore play the ball wide to Craig McFarlane who fired a shot wide of goal.
The crucial moment of the game came in the 34th minute when Spennymoor won possession just inside the Bay half and Rae played the ball through to Peacock on the right. His short pass found Craig Ruddy who unleashed a great shot from around 25 yards out and the ball flew across goal and into the far corner of the net.
Whitley were stung into action by this setback and two minutes later Leon Ryan’s header was saved low down after the Spennymoor defence failed to clear the ball as it bobbled across the six yard box. A free kick from Lee Kerr was then headed behind by Gareth Waite and from the resultant corner, David Coulson directed his header just wide of goal.
This pressure on the home goal was followed by a rapid break away by Spennymoor and when Rae was clean through on goal, Kindley came to Whitley’s rescue with a timely challenge as he raced out, blocked the shot and was able to clear the ball back downfield.
Adam Johnston, who up to this stage had not made a significant impact, recovered after being fouled, curling a free kick just wide of goal. With half time approaching, Whitley had claims for a penalty turned down when Phil Bell went down in the area after appearing to be pushed. Craig McFarlane then had to be helped from the field after a nasty challenge in which it later emerged that he had suffered ligament damage.
Matters got worse moments later when an off the ball incident just outside the Spennymoor penalty area between Adam Johnston and Spennymoor defender Paul Stephenson resulted in both players being sent off. Shirt tugging led to hands being raised and Johnston was seen to take a punch on the face from Stephenson before falling to the ground. After consulting with his assistants, the referee firstly dismissed Stephenson and after Johnston had received treatment, he was also shown a red card. Finally, Whitley were awarded a free kick which came to nothing and the half time whistle enabled tempers to cool.
After the break, it was the home side who looked the more eager and Kindley needed to be on his toes to deal with shots from Capper and Rae. When Chris Moore made ground up the wing, his cross reached Bell whose effort was blocked. Keeper Craig Turns was fully tested by a Lee Kerr free kick, which he held on to at the second attempt.
Spennymoor were increasingly finding space down the right and Ruddy sprinted away before firing a shot across goal and beyond the far post. Rae then broke through only for Kindley to deny the league’s joint top scorer. Whitley were not managing to clear their lines effectively and were conceding possession which put them under further pressure.
Chris Fawcett looked to be struggling and just past the hour he was replaced by Paul Chow who was quickly involved in a three man move that ended with Kerr’s shot being deflected from goal by the home defence. Whitley were beginning to force their way back into the game but determined defending constantly denied them time or space.
Spennymoor substitute Chris Lawther had a great chance to increase his side’s lead but slid his shot wide of goal when well placed. Chris Moore, now operating on the left wing, played a ball across to Paul Robinson who was about to shoot but was quickly closed down and the chance was gone.
With just under 20 minutes to go, Whitley suffered another blow when defender Callum Anderson had to be carried from the field with what looked like a bad injury after being fouled by Lewis Dodds. The foul earned the Spennymoor man a second yellow card and so he was sent off, reducing the home side to nine men. Whitley brought on Damon Robson in place of Anderson while Spennymoor pulled more players back to defend their lead.
Whitley went close shortly after when Kerr’s corner was headed on by Coulson to Chow whose effort was scrambled off the line. Pushing players forward in search of an equaliser left Whitley exposed at the back and Lawther again broke clear when Coulson’s misdirected header rebounded into his path. However, Kindley came to Whitley’s rescue with a fine save, pushing the ball over the bar. Lawther then went even closer, as his shot crashed off the far post with Kindley at full stretch.
Whitley poured forward in the closing stages and a shot from Robinson was only kept out by a diving save from Turns. Chow headed agonisingly just inches over the bar with a powerful header from Kerr’s corner then Chris Reid saw his header pushed wide by Turns. With the game now into stoppage time, a great volley from Kerr crashed off defender Chris Mason for a corner. This typified the Spennymoor defensive effort, as they repeatedly headed clear, tackled, got behind the ball and blocked every shot that Whitley could throw at them. There was still time for yet another chance to come the way of Lawther but once again he fired across goal and beyond the far post.
Eventually, despite almost five minutes being added by the referee, time ran out for Whitley and the final whistle saw the home side and their fans celebrate what was a deserved victory. Had Whitley played the whole game as they did in the final stages the result might have been different but credit must go to Spennymoor for their battling performance, especially when down to nine men.
For the neutral, this must have been a tremendously exciting game to watch between probably the best two sides in the league and with entertainment such as this the crowds will surely continue to grow.
The Whitley support was tremendous throughout the game and for some of the fans who were attracted to the club by last season’s Vase success, it would have been the first time they had seen the team lose. It was in fact Whitley’s first league defeat in 19 games, stretching back to April when they went down 3-2 at Penrith.
Another curious statistic - this was the first league game of the season in which Whitley have failed to score. Last season, the first game in which Whitley failed to score was on the same weekend, when they also lost 1-0, on that occasion at Dunston on 25th October.
What chance a similar score to last season on the second weekend in May?
WHITLEY BAY: Kindley, Anderson(Robson 71mins),Fawcett(Chow 62mins), McFarlane(Reid 45mins), Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Kerr, Johnston, Bell, Robinson.
Subs not used: Timmons, Picton
Referee Mr D Swainston