|FA Vase 5th Round||779|
|Saturday 21st February 2009||Whitley Bay V Stratford Town||2-0|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Wembley is one step closer for Whitley after they deservedly made it through to the 6th Round of the FA Vase on Saturday. However, visitors Stratford Town fought back bravely after conceding two goals in quick succession, putting Whitley under sustained second half pressure.
Following two postponements due to wintry weather, conditions at Hillheads on Saturday were mild but breezy as Whitley took on Aspire Midlands Alliance side Stratford with a place in the last eight of the competition as well as Ł2000 prize money at stake. Whitley were missing captain David Coulson while Stratford were unable to call on several first team players.
Unusually, Whitley chose to attack the Hillheads Road end in the first half, playing into the wind. The opening period was fairly even and while Whitley had more of the play, Stratford looked dangerous on the break and it was they who produced the first shot on target after eight minutes when Paul Hall fired straight at Terry Burke, who was the only change from the side that beat Spennymoor earlier in the week.
Chris Moore was soon causing problems for the Stratford defence down the right wing while Phil Bell was also in the thick of the action. The game really burst to life in the 20th minute when Moore got away from his marker and sent over a perfect cross which Stratford keeper Karl Lewis could only parry. Bay’s top scorer Paul Chow was on hand to force the ball home from close range to the delight of the majority of the 779 fans packed into the ground.
Five minutes later it got even better for Whitley when Chris Fawcett ran on to a through ball and from just outside the penalty area he volleyed a superb shot that dipped under the bar giving Lewis no chance. Following his goal against Spennymoor, this was the second time in a week that Fawcett had produced a spectacular goal and it put Whitley firmly in control as the visitors looked as if they might be overwhelmed.
However, Stratford, who were unbeaten since well before Christmas, steadied themselves and gradually came back into the game. Hall was working hard in midfield and on the half hour Jack Byrne headed over the bar though Burke had the effort covered. Moore and Bell combined well for Whitley but the ball was headed behind for a corner. Paul Chow was then put through and the advancing keeper Lewis made a good save with his legs. Leon Ryan got in on the act with a firm header that Lewis saved comfortably. At the other end Rawlings failed to make the most of a rare opportunity, firing well wide when he should at least have got his shot on target. Five minutes before the interval, Jakab also put a good chance well wide of goal, but with 42 minutes played, the same player brought a quite magnificent save from Burke, the Bay keeper diving full length to clutch the ball out of the air just as it seemed to be heading for the corner of the net.
The warning signs were there for Whitley and after the break the Warwickshire side were quickly into their stride. Just six minutes had been played when Gary Moran crossed from the left for Jakab to head against the bar. Shortly after, Chris Moore hooked the ball off the line from a left wing corner. Stratford players claimed that the ball had already crossed the line and captain Micky Love was booked for arguing his case too strongly.
Lee Picton was injured in a challenge and despite attempting to continue, he had to leave the field limping shortly after the hour with Damon Robson taking his place. Stratford continued to battle away, pegging Whitley back in their own half for lengthy periods. Rawlings produced a good effort for Stratford with a shot that just cleared the bar but eventually, and to the relief of their fans, Whitley did break out of defence with Moore setting up an opening for Chow, whose close range effort clipped the outside of the post. Lee Kerr almost found himself clear on goal but an offside flag was raised and he was booked for continuing his run after the whistle had been blown, the referee presumably feeling that he was attempting to waste time. Stratford’s Kevin Spencer sliced the ball just over his own bar when Moore again teased the visitors with a ball across the goalmouth, and from the resultant corner taken by Kerr, Ryan’s header was well saved low down by Lewis.
Despite holding a two goal advantage, it proved an anxious second half for Whitley and their fans. Whitley were well below their best but at the final whistle the victory celebrations could begin. Stratford certainly played their part and had made Whitley fight all the way, and in Paul Hall they had a player who controlled the game from midfield in the second half and he deservedly took the Stratford man of the match award. Chris Fawcett was named Whitley’s man of the match but Terry Burke could not have been far behind, making some crucial saves to keep Whitley’s 15th clean sheet of the season.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, McFarlane, Picton(Robson 62mins), Robinson(Reay 79mins), Taylor, Ryan, Moore, Chow, Kerr(Bone 88mins), Bell, Fawcett