|skilltrainingltd League Division One||218|
|Saturday 13th December 2008||Whitley Bay V Bedlington Terriers||5-2|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Once again there was a feast of goals for the fans who braved the miserable weather at Hillheads on Saturday. Persistent heavy rain had caused the postponement of almost every Northern League game but the Hillheads pitch was looking remarkably good considering the wintry weather.
Before kick off, there was a one minute silence as a mark of respect for Billy Wright, Whitley’s greatest ever goalscorer, who died on 1st December.
Billy, who scored 307 goals in an 11 year career at Hillheads, would have revelled in the heavy conditions and pouring rain which continued throughout the afternoon. Doubtless he would have enjoyed the game and been impressed with the efforts of his successors.
While Whitley were worthy winners, both sides deserve credit for contributing to what was a thoroughly entertaining local derby. Bedlington looked a far better side than the one that Whitley easily beat 3-0 at the start of the season and up to the last ten minutes the Terriers competed well.
Andy Hay returned to the side following injury and there was recall for goalkeeper Rob McLean, but Darren Timmons was out injured.
Whitley started in positive fashion and within three minutes they went close when Chris Moore crossed for Lee Kerr whose shot was blocked. At the other end, Bedlington’s Gareth McAlindon was only just off target in the 10th minute, but back came Whitley and five minutes later they looked certain to score when another cross from Moore found Kerr whose shot was cleared off the line by former Bay defender Jon Sunderland. A minute later, Phil Bell headed over the bar from Paul Robinson’s right wing corner. The game was being played at a fast pace and when the Terriers broke away again, Chris Philipson tested McLean with a low shot that skidded off the wet surface but the Bay keeper collected the ball well. David Coulson was commanding at the back for Whitley, regularly winning the ball in the air. Craig McFarlane, playing against his former club then cut in from the left and fired a shot into the side netting from a narrow angle. Phil Bell should have put Whitley in front when a long ball put him clear on goal with only Powell to beat but he struggled to control the ball and Powell smothered the shot.
Just on the half hour, Powell collided with one of his own defenders as they both attempted a clearance. The ball ran loose to Andy Hay on the right edge of the penalty area and he drilled the ball into an empty net to give Whitley the lead. The Bedlington keeper needed attention following the collision but was able to resume.
Ten minutes later, Bedlington were back on level terms when a good move saw Tony Shandran cross from the right to the back post where Scott Bell slid the ball past McLean for the equaliser. Parity only last two minutes however, as Hay got his second goal of the game after he latched on to Robinson’s miscued shot to put Whitley back in front. There was still time for Philipson to try his luck with another free kick which came to nothing, and at the interval, it was Whitley who had their noses in front.
After half time, Whitley were quickly back on the attack and David Coulson sent a thumping header against the bar after Phil Bell had nodded on a cross from the left. Not to be outdone, Bedlington responded with McAlindon driving in a free kick which clipped the top of Whitley’s bar. A single goal lead did not look like being sufficient in a game where both sides were creating chances but when Andy Hay’s shot was blocked by the visitors, the ball rebounded to Robinson who sent a fierce shot through a crowded defence and with Powell probably unsighted, the ball flew into the net to give Whitley a two goal cushion.
Chris Fawcett, who had replace McFarlane at half time, was creating problems for Bedlington with his pace down the left wing and with Moore operating effectively on the other flank, the visitors were beginning to be stretched at the back. Conditions were getting increasingly difficult as players battled in the mud and rain but at no stage was it as bad as during last season's FA Vase game against Flixton.
Substitute Darren Reay cleared the ball off the line for Whitley as Bedlington continued to battle away, while at the other end, a good three man move ended with the unlucky Kerr seeing his shot hit the outside of the post. Twelve minutes from time, the Terriers were back in the game when McAlindon’s perfectly flighted free kick from the left flew into the top corner of McLean’s net, giving the Bay keeper no chance.
Three minutes later, Paul Chow, who had not long been on the field, rose above the visitors’ tiring defence to head home from Robinson’s left wing corner. Barely a minute later, Chris Fawcett, whipped in a cross from the left for Moore to smash home Whitley’s fifth goal.
At this point, the game was won and for the first time in the game, Bedlington heads dropped. As a result, Whitley dominated the closing stages and might have added to their lead, which indeed they should have done in the 90th minute, when Moore was tripped by Lawson as he raced towards goal and Whitley were awarded a penalty. Robinson’s spot kick hit the bar and although he hit the rebound into the net, the goal was not allowed as no other player had touched the ball. A sixth goal would have been harsh on the visitors, especially their overworked keeper Gareth Powell.
Following three postponements due the bad weather, Whitley will have been grateful to get a game under their belts ahead of the twice postponed FA Vase tie at Penrith. A fifth successive victory maintains the improved form of the last month, and with only one other First Division game going ahead, Whitley climbed three places to sixth in the table.
WHITLEY BAY: McLean, Taylor, McFarlane(Fawcett 45mins), Robson, Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Hay(Reay 60mins), Bell(Chow 68mins), Kerr, Robinson