|skilltrainingltd League Division One||307|
|Saturday 30th January 2010||Shildon V Whitley Bay||3-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley’s second defeat inside a week leaves them nine points adrift of leaders Spennymoor with the sides now having played the same number of games. It may seem premature to concede the title with 17 games still to go, but Spennymoor must now be odds on favourites to take the championship while Whitley face a battle to hold on to second place.
This was the only Northern League First Division game to survive the return of wintry weather, and although there was no snow in south west Durham, there had been a hard frost and despite bright sunshine, parts of the pitch still appeared to be frozen at kick off.
Whitley were forced into making two changes for this game, Lee Picton replacing the unavailable Leon Ryan in defence while Terry Burke returned in goal in place of Tom Kindley who suffered a hip injury against Dunston. In what looked like a more defensive formation, there was no place in the starting line up for Chris Moore or Paul Robinson, although both were on the bench.
Shildon went into the game fresh from an 8-1 midweek victory; with an eight match unbeaten run and like Whitley, still in the FA Vase.
In front a bumper crowd which included a large Bay following, Whitley started well and with five minutes played, Paul Chow’s accurate cross found Hodgson, whose shot on target was blocked. Barely a minute later, Kerr crossed to the back post where Adam Johnston’s header appeared to hit the post before being put behind for a corner by keeper Keith Finch.
After an encouraging opening ten minutes, Whitley fell behind when Chris Hughes was tripped on the edge of the penalty area as he ran through on goal. Terry Burke dived the right way but could not get his hands to Andrew Johnson’s well placed spot kick. The goal lifted Shildon and they gradually took control of midfield. Whitley were making little impression against a strong defence and without the width provided by winger Chris Moore, they posed a much lesser threat.
Johnston brought a good save from Finch after 26 minutes when his header from Kerr’s cross was held on the line. A minute later Whitley had strong appeals for a penalty rejected when Chow appeared to be pulled down as he turned past three defenders. Johnston protested too strongly for the referee’s liking and was booked.
Shildon broke downfield again and after Burke palmed away a shot from Hughes, another attempt on goal was blocked, Richard Hodgson handling Ian Watson’s effort. Once again Andrew Johnson stepped up to take the penalty but this time he blazed the ball high and wide.
A minute before half time, Whitley got back on level terms after a corner on the right was played short to Robson, whose cross into the goalmouth saw Darren Timmons just get his head to the ball in front of Finch and defender Keegan. The ball trickled over the line despite the desperate attempt of Finch to claw the ball back.
The first half we started quite brightly, and had 2 good chances to take the lead through Adam Johnston’s header at the far post being well saved, and then another header from Adam when the ball just stopped on the goal line before being collected.
Then came the 2 penalties, 1 from a carless challenge by Damon and the 2nd when Hodgy fell on the ball with outstretched hand, I think both were penalties however Hodgies was a little harsh, apart from this Shildon had no other chances, whilst we for the last 15 minutes of the half pushed them back and I think deserved the equaliser from Darren Timmons.
Now for the second half, we were unbelievably weak, midfield vanished, and gave the ball away far to often. We had spoke about playing to the conditions, it’s was hard on top and difficult to turn, yet we never once turned Shildon’s defence around, very disappointing.
Shildon’s second goal was from dreadful defending, simple corner played to the edge of our box headed back into the area where their player had the freedom of the box to fire home, very poor defending. Their 3rd goal came from a breakaway which saw their player run probably 50 yards without any challenges from us, then shoot through the legs of a defender and in to the corner of the net giving Terry no chance. In fact had it not been for Terry the score line could have been much worse, Terry made a tremendous triple save at one point to deny Shildon.
Having said all the above, we still had 4 real good chances in the second half, which saw a great saves from a Paul Robinson, Paul Chow (twice) and then Adam shot passed the post from 10 yards, so but for better finishing we might have got something out of the game.
Bad defending, poor finishing doesn’t make for a Whitley win, simple as that.
Plus points were Terry Burke and Craig McFarlane got 90 minutes, as for next Saturday there’ll be a few disappointed players sitting beside me that’s for sure.
The Bay defence was looking shakier than at any time in the season and the influence of Leon Ryan was clearly being missed. Some Whitley players appeared to be struggling with their foothold on the hard and partly frozen surface whereas Shildon were adapting to the conditions much more effectively.
Moore and Robinson were brought on in a bid to strengthen midfield and provide better service to strikers Chow and Johnston. Robinson almost reduced the arrears within five minutes but Finch made an excellent diving save to push what looked a goal bound shot just round the corner. Coulson’s header from the corner brought another good save from the Shildon keeper, pushing the ball over the bar at full stretch. When Paul Chow wriggled his way past two defenders inside the area it seemed as if he must score but his shot hit Finch and rebounded away from goal.
Chances were coming at both ends and Shildon had several opportunities to extend their lead further, but fired straight at Burke or drove the ball over the bar.
In the final ten minutes Shildon peppered the Whitley goal with shots but Burke kept them out. He pushed a free kick from substitute Chris Bell over the bar and then produced a magnificent triple save, blocking two shots before pushing a third attempt away from goal when it seemed certain that Shildon would score.
In the final analysis, a very impressive Shildon side were good value for their win and Whitley could certainly have no complaints about the margin of victory.
Two defeats earlier in the season quickly led to a return to form and a long unbeaten run, and it is to be hoped that Whitley can bounce back again after this latest setback. They certainly cannot afford a similar performance at Chertsey on Saturday.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, McFarlane, Picton(Moore 50mins), Hodgson(Robinson 58mins), Coulson, Timmons, Fawcett, Robson, Johnston, Chow, Kerr(Bell 69mins)
Subs not used: Waite, Lee
Referee: J Traynor