|skilltrainingltd League Division One||496|
|Saturday 23rd January 2010||Whitley Bay V Billingham Town||1-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
A frustrating afternoon for Whitley ended with visitors Billingham Town snatching a point thanks to a late equaliser. Having won their last eight games, Whitley were strong favourites to defeat the Teessiders, who had lost five of their previous six, but things did not go according to plan as far as Whitley were concerned.
Billingham came to Hillheads clearly determined to put on a better show than last year when Whitley put eight goals past them, and to their credit they battled strongly throughout the game and in the end probably deserved their point.
The game started with Whitley launching wave after wave of attacks. Inside the first two minutes, Chris Fawcett twice burst clear on the left, firstly crossing for Chris Moore to drill a shot just wide then moments later his cross gave Moore the opening to test James Wiggan with an effort that the Billingham keeper pushed over the bar. Moore himself then provided Leon Ryan with a chance before Johnston fired a shot just over the bar.
It seemed only a matter of time before Whitley made the breakthrough but for a time, play became rather scrappy with Whitley lacking their usual control in midfield.
The main threat seemed to be the pace of Fawcett down the left wing and when he went past Donachie with ease, he crossed for Paul Chow whose stooping header flew just over the bar. Not long afterwards, Phil Bell volleyed wide from Adam Johnston’s cross as Whitley again failed to hit the target. They were almost made to pay ten minutes before the interval when Town captain Shaun Clark hit a long range shot just over the bar.
Whitley went in front two minutes later when Fawcett raced past Sean Kell down the left but was tripped by the Billingham man. Lee Kerr floated the free kick into the goalmouth where Phil Bell sent a glancing header over Wiggan, who got a hand to the ball but could only help it on its way into the net. David Coulson struck a 25 yard effort narrowly past the post shortly after but at half time Whitley were just one goal ahead.
Early in the second half, Craig McFarlane came off the substitute’s bench to make a welcome return following a lengthy absence through injury. Both Robson and Anderson were brought on but despite these changes, Billingham gradually grew in confidence as they continued to stifle Whitley’s attacking moves. Passes went astray and the final ball into the penalty area failed to find a Whitley player. The visitors began to push forward and midway through the half it took a fine diving save by Tom Kindley to deny Clark an equaliser. Phil Bell almost got a second goal for Whitley with 20 minutes to go when after racing clear on the right, his shot beat the keeper but he was denied by a brave last ditch clearance by defender Sean Boynton who hooked the ball off the line and team mate Donachie put it behind for a corner.
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Whitley were becoming frustrated and were running out of ideas and Billingham sensed their opportunity to grab something from the game. Four minutes from time they did just that when Steven Roberts tapped the ball home from close range. Their tactics had paid off and the celebration from the visiting bench and fans at the final whistle showed just how much they valued the point they had gained.
Meanwhile the great majority of another bumper Hillheads crowd, just under 500 fans, were left to reflect on a rare disappointing performance by Ian Chandler’s side.
WHITLEY BAY: Kindley, Timmons(McFarlane 50mins), Fawcett, Johnston(Anderson 69mins), Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Chow(Robson 56mins), Bell, Kerr, Robinson
Subs not used: Hodgson, Picton