|skilltrainingltd League Division One||131|
|Saturday 31st January 2009||Tow Law Town V Whitley Bay||2-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
It was a severely depleted Whitley team that took on a Tow Law side who were defending an unbeaten record at their Ironworks Road ground on Saturday. With Terry Burke unavailable and both Rob McLean and Tom Kindley unfit, Phil Hogg was brought in as goalkeeper. Injuries ruled out Darren Timmons, David Coulson, Bruce Hogg, Lee Picton and Andy Hay, while Damon Robson, still not fully fit, was named among the substitutes, as was Chris Moore, just back from a two week spell working abroad. As a result, youngsters Darren Reay, Callum Anderson and Chris Reid all made the starting line up.
The heavy pitch soon started to cut up quite badly and in the early stages Whitley struggled to make an impact. The Lawyers went ahead in the 13th minute following a goalmouth scramble when Hogg initially failed to collect the ball but then did well to block two shots. The ball was cleared only to the edge of the penalty area before it was launched back into the goalmouth where after another scramble, Darren Hollingsworth scored from close range.
With Mark Taylor and Leon Ryan in command at the heart of the Bay defence, Whitley gradually came more into the game and midway through the half, Paul Chow out on the left, played the ball down the slope where Phil Bell’s shot was put behind for a corner. A few minutes later, Craig McFarlane’s low shot across goal from 15 yards took a slight deflection as it flew wide of the far post. Chris Fawcett then crossed from the left aiming for Phil Bell at the back post but keeper Simon Bishop saved well and the chance was gone.
Tow Law might have increased their lead two minutes before the interval but Andy Johnson was denied when Hogg saved with his feet before gathering the loose ball ahead of the Lawyers’ striker.
Whitley were finding it difficult to create chances on goal and at half time were a goal behind.
The game took on a rather different look at the beginning of the second half with Whitley quickly on the attack. Craig McFarlane fired the ball into a packed goalmouth and the rebound came to Phil Bell whose shot hit a defender and went high over the bar. There was a delay while the player recovered but he was able to continue after treatment.
Darren Reay was soon replaced by Chris Moore as Ian Chandler tried to stretch the home defence. Paul Robinson was also brought on in place of Callum Anderson but unlike the Bootle game, when Robinson came on and changed the course of the game on a very heavy pitch, he was unable to make a similar impact this time.
Almost immediately after the substitutions, Whitley were reduced to ten men when Chris Reid was sent off after appearing to bring down a Tow Law player who had a clear run on goal. The dismissal gave the initiative back to Tow Law and Wilkinson nearly scored what would have been a tremendous goal with a shot from fully 25 yards that flew inches over the bar. Four minutes later, the home side again found space in the Bay half and it was Johnson who crossed to the back post where the unmarked Lee Hamilton headed home from close range. It was an excellent goal and the game appeared to be won.
However, just three minutes later, Phil Bell was tripped on the edge of the penalty area by Tow Law defender Richie Langthorne and referee Mr Sharp showed him a red card. This seemed a harsh decision and it enraged the home side, who felt the official was simply choosing to even up the numbers. When order had been restored, Lee Kerr curled the free kick into the top corner of the net and Whitley were back in the game. It was a superb strike and gave Whitley and their travelling fans a real lift.
The final 12 minutes saw Whitley surge forward with Leon Ryan joining the attack for set piece moves. When Bell crossed from the left by line, the ball ran agonisingly right across the face of goal with no one on hand to apply the finishing touch. Keeper Bishop marshalled his defence well as Whitley piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser. Shots were blocked and one flew just wide, but then the action swung to the other end and Hogg had to be alert, twice blocking shots as the home side pushed for a third goal.
Time eventually ran out for Whitley, for whom Ironworks Road is not a happy hunting ground. However, the under strength side gave the Lawyers a real battle and on another day might well have come away with a point.
One of the positive signs on the day was Lee Kerr getting on the mark for the second successive game. He has been playing well for a number of weeks now from a deeper position behind Chow and Bell and his free kick was reminiscent of many he scored last season.
WHITLEY BAY: Hogg, Reay(Moore 53mins), McFarlane, Anderson(Robinson 57mins), Taylor, Ryan, Fawcett, Chow(Hattrick 70mins), Bell, Kerr, Reid.