|FA Vase 5th Round||617|
|Saturday 6th February 2010||Chertsey Town V Whitley Bay||1-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley’s hopes of retaining the FA Vase are still alive after a gripping 5th Round tie in Surrey against Combined Counties League side Chertsey Town. In a closely contested game, Whitley had to play the last three quarters of an hour with just ten men following a controversial decision to send off Richard Hodgson, when in the eyes of many spectators the referee should have awarded Whitley a penalty.
Despite foggy conditions during the journey south, the Alwyns Lane ground was bathed in bright sunshine to welcome Chertsey’s biggest crowd of the season, which included at least 150 Whitley fans.
Whitley’s starting line up included both Phil Bell and Paul Chow in attack, while Terry Burke retained the goalkeeper’s jersey. Lee Kerr, Chris Fawcett and Tom Kindley were all on the bench.
More than ever at this stage of a national competition, the opening goal can be crucial for settling nerves and it was Chertsey who made the breakthrough after just six minutes when Ollie Treacher was allowed too much space as he attacked down the left wing. Seizing his chance, he fired a tremendous shot from fully 30 yards and the ball seemed to take Burke by surprise, dipping over his head before bulging the net.
A quick response was needed by Whitley and just four minutes later the massed Bay support were celebrating the equaliser after a three man move cut through the home defence. Damon Robson’s cross from the right was nodded on by Leon Ryan inside the penalty area and Richard Hodgson reacted quickly, poking the ball into the left corner of the net.
After this dramatic opening, the game settled down but Chertsey continued to look dangerous and some uncharacteristic hesitancy in the Bay defence must have encouraged the Surrey side. Midway through the half, leading scorer John Pomroy fired in a shot from the right that Burke palmed away to safety.
Whitley were playing their part but created few chances. Chris Moore was making little impression, being effectively double marked with a pacy defender giving him little space and it was the home side who were looking the more dangerous. It needed a timely tackle by David Coulson four minutes before the break to deny Dave Tarpey a clear run on goal and at the interval, although the scores remained level, Chertsey had the edge and would have been the happier of the two sides.
After the break, Whitley gradually came more into the game. Leon Ryan headed straight into the arms of Chertsey keeper Liam Stone from Hodgson’s corner before Paul Robinson’s shot on goal was deflected wide.
What looked like a blatant penalty for a two handed push on Paul Chow by Treacher right on the penalty spot was ignored by the referee who for much of the game seemed rather whistle happy.
Fawcett and Johnston replaced Moore and Bell after an hour as Whitley continued to push the home side back.
A high ball from Robinson to the back post bounced awkwardly for Fawcett who could not control his shot then two minutes later with Whitley again on the attack, Hodgson was cautioned for what the referee deemed to be an elbow in the face of Chertsey captain Steve Gibson. The assistant came on to the pitch apparently to indicate that he saw no foul but the decision stood.
This proved to be hugely significant five minutes later when Hodgson skipped past two challenges as he broke into the penalty area and then went down after appearing to be tripped by defender John Boswell. Instead of pointing to the penalty spot, Wiltshire referee John Flynn awarded a free kick the other way and brandished a second yellow card to Hodgson, accusing the Bay midfielder of diving. Two contentious decisions had left Whitley a man short when they might have had the opportunity to go a goal in front with just 12 minutes to go.
Not surprisingly Chertsey quickly made a substitution and pushed men forward. The last ten minutes of the ninety saw both sides searching for a winner and Paul Robinson almost snatched it for Whitley with two minutes left when he saw Stone off his line and fired in a great shot from at least 35 yards out. The keeper just managed to get his fingertips to the ball, pushing it wide of the upright. Then when Leon Ryan came up to meet a cross from the right, he was felled by what appeared to be an elbow in his face as he challenged for the ball but not for the first time Whitley’s appeals were waved away by the referee. With extra time beckoning, Chertsey pushed forward and Fawcett cleared off the line from a right wing corner before Burke smothered a shot from substitute Agyei.
Playing another 30 minutes with a one man advantage, the odds clearly favoured Chertsey but roared on by their ever vociferous fans, Whitley were determined to retain their grip on the Vase and in the first period of extra time with their superior fitness beginning to show they suffered very few alarms.
Inevitably the pressure mounted in the final ten minutes of the game, but as they say ‘cometh the hour cometh the man’ and it was goalkeeper Terry Burke, kept out the side for much of the season by the excellent form of young Tom Kindley, who kept Whitley in the competition with several quite outstanding saves. Ably supported by stoic defending, he frustrated the home side by pushing an in-swinging corner from Moody onto the bar before denying Pomroy when the striker was clear on goal. Then, with just three minutes left came the finest save of all, when Pomroy arrowed a 25 yard shot towards the top left corner. It looked a goal all the way but Burke somehow leapt across the goal to palm the ball round the post, a quite magnificent save and one that ensured a replay at Hillheads on Saturday.
The reception that the team received from the fans at the final whistle was as if they had won, because that was how it felt, but Chertsey are a good side, the best Whitley have faced in the competition this season and they will be no pushovers in the replay. However, if Whitley can keep eleven players on the pitch, then backed by a 1000+ crowd they must be favourites to reach the last eight, where they would join Norton, Shildon and possibly Marske as well. That would be quite an achievement for the skilltrainingltd Northern League!
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, McFarlane, Timmons(Reid 99mins), Hodgson, Coulson, Ryan, Moore(Fawcett 60mins), Robson, Chow, Bell(Johnston 60mins), Robinson
Subs not used: Kerr, Kindley
Referee J Flynn