|skilltrainingltd League Division One||285|
|Tuesday 17th February 2009||Whitley Bay V Spennymoor Town||2-0|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Playing a crucial top of the table league game just four days before an important FA Vase tie may not seem the ideal preparation for such a big match but if Saturday’s game was on the minds of the Whitley players it certainly did not show as they emerged victorious over one of their main championship rivals.
With Spennymoor anxious to bounce back from the disappointment of their FA Vase exit at Bideford just over a week ago, this was never going to be an easy evening for Ian Chandler’s team and the crowd of 285 who turned up at Hillheads were treated to a thoroughly entertaining game.
The outcome could not have been better for Whitley - an excellent performance against a side unbeaten in the league since October with the three points gained taking them to the top of the Northern League table for the first time this season.
With captain David Coulson out injured, Mark Taylor returned and although Terry Burke was unavailable and Damon Robson still not fully recovered from injury, it was a strong Bay side that took the field 15 minutes later than scheduled, due to the late arrival of some of the visiting players who had been held up at the Tyne Tunnel.
The game started at a fast pace with both teams breaking quickly but equally being closed down by alert defending. Whitley’s first attempt on goal came after eight minutes when Paul Robinson fired a low shot narrowly wide of the target. Spennymoor looked dangerous when they broke away but Mark Taylor, Leon Ryan and Lee Picton gave nothing away at the heart of the Bay defence. Chris Fawcett managed to break clear down the left just after the quarter hour and his cross into the goalmouth was headed over the bar by Phil Bell. A minute later Spennymoor keeper Keith Finch knew little about a tremendous 25 yard volley from Robinson that flew past the post.
When the visitors attacked Whitley were forced to concede a corner and Rob McLean, deputising for Terry Burke only just managed to reach the ball in a crowded goalmouth. Shortly afterwards, Kerr was penalised about 25 yards out and Spennymoor’s Craig Gott tested McLean with a shot that the keeper punched clear.
When play swung to the other end, Paul Chow ran on to a long ball and when Finch raced out to attempt a clearance, the ball fell to Bell, whose lob shot was saved by the keeper. Robinson was a constant threat for Whitley and he almost broke the deadlock after 34 minutes with a rasping effort that hit the side netting.
Craig McFarlane and Lee Kerr were doing a tremendous amount of work in midfield restricting the pacy Spennymoor wingers while for the visitors David Gordon was doing a similarly successful job giving Chris Moore very little space on the right wing. It was looking as if the first half was going to end goal less but with three minutes remaining, following another Bay attack, the ball was hooked away from goal by Town captain Carl Beasley, but it was only cleared as far as Craig Fawcett, who from fully 25 yards out, let fly a superb curling shot that left Finch sprawling as it rocketed into the top corner of the net. It was a spectacular goal and one of the best seen at Hillheads this season. It left the visitors stunned after a half in which they had given a good account of themselves, giving the Bay defence plenty to think about.
After the interval, Whitley gradually took control as Spennymoor seemed to lose their way. McFarlane raced through from the half way line and drove a low shot at goal but Finch made a comfortable save. Chris Moore was beginning to find more space down the wing and from a well placed cross, Bell headed just the wrong side of the post.
In all areas of the field, Whitley were looking in command with players challenging for every ball and no one shirking a tackle. Paul Robinson was running the game in midfield while up front Phil Bell was working extremely hard, constantly harrying the defence and giving then no time to dwell on the ball. Meanwhile Chris Fawcett was having one of his best games since arriving at Hillheads in the autumn.
However, despite their increasing superiority, Whitley were still just one goal ahead and the game was far from over. That all changed with just over quarter of an hour to go when a misunderstanding in the Spennymoor defence saw Finch and a team mate going for the same through ball. When it rebounded into the path of the advancing Paul Chow, he nodded it over the keeper and into the net despite the despairing efforts of a Town defender. At 2-0 the game was won and Ian Chandler was now prepared to substitute three of his key players; Paul Chow, Chris Fawcett and Lee Kerr all being replaced in the closing stages.
To their credit, Spennymoor did not give up all hope and with four minutes left, in a rare second half attack, sub Chris Lawther fired into the side netting, but it left Rob McLean relatively untroubled having had very few saves to make all game.
The representative of Stratford Town who was in the crowd would have been given plenty of food for thought ahead of Saturday’s Vase game and if Whitley can reproduce this sort of form they will take some beating.
The result opens up further the league title race and for Whitley to emerge such worthy winners of a top of the table game without key defenders such as Darren Timmons, David Coulson and goalkeeper Terry Burke merely emphasises the strength of the squad that Ian Chandler has assembled.
WHITLEY BAY: McLean, McFarlane, Picton, Robinson, Taylor, Ryan, Moore, Chow(Reay 77mins), Kerr(Bone 87mins), Bell, Fawcett(Reid 81mins)