|skilltrainingltd League Division One||339|
|Saturday 7th March 2009||Whitley Bay V Shildon||2-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Every game seems to be a tough one at the moment and with Shildon on a 16 match unbeaten run in the League – their last defeat being at the beginning of October – it was clear that Whitley would face a stern test at Hillheads on Saturday.
Paul Robinson was back in the side having missed the midweek game against Nissan. Chris Reid also came into the starting eleven, with Phil Bell and Chris Fawcett on the bench.
Shildon made a lively start with top scorer Warren Byrne firing well over the bar after just two minutes. A header from Stuart Niven was also off target shortly after but with 10 minutes played, Terry Burke was brought into action to push away a long range effort from Niven.
Having withstood the early pressure, Whitley countered with more effect and when Reid attacked down the left, his ball to Kerr was played on to Chow who found Chris Moore clear on the right edge of the penalty area. The speedy winger sent a perfectly placed shot across keeper Keith Finch, the ball clipping the inside of the post on its way into the far corner of the net. This was Whitley’s first real attempt on goal and it seemed to unsettle the visitors, with Moore turning provider four minutes later when his cross was driven just over the bar by Paul Robinson.
Byrne was proving a handful for the Bay defence and he brought another fine save from Burke but for the most part, Whitley were doing a good containing job despite some attractive build up play from Shildon.
The visitors were finding it more difficult to deal with the threat posed by Chris Moore and with Lee Kerr in particular working extremely hard Whitley looked dangerous whenever they broke upfield. With 36 minutes played, Whitley doubled their lead. It came when Paul Chow burst clear and although Finch did well to block his shot, the ball rebounded into the path of Craig McFarlane who headed the ball back over the keeper, who was still on the ground, and into an unguarded net.
Two minutes later, Whitley suffered a blow when Mark Taylor, who was injured when stretching to reach a ball, had to leave the field with a groin injury. This forced Whitley to reshuffle their defence but they comfortably saw out the remaining minutes of the first half. In terms of opportunities created, Shildon might have felt aggrieved to be two goals down at the interval but Whitley had given them a lesson in finishing off their chances during what had been a thoroughly entertaining first half.
In a tactical move, Darren Reay replaced Chris Reid after half time and it was not long before more reorganisation was needed when Leon Ryan left the field to be replaced by Phil Bell. Shildon were now forcing Whitley back and a header from Hutton was pushed onto the bar by Burke. The Bay keeper then denied Byrne once again with a good save before Whitley retaliated with Robinson firing over the bar from Lee Kerr’s corner. Byrne was central to most of Shildon’s attacks but too often for their own good, neat build up was followed by shots off target. Coulson was marshalling his versatile emergency defence extremely effectively and once again McFarlane was getting through a tremendous amount of work.
Whitley were not creating a great deal but a dangerous cross from Moore found Chow stretching and his shot flew high over the bar. Robinson had his heels clipped as he surged towards goal but the resultant free kick came to nothing. Just as the game was entering stoppage time, Lee Kerr brought a good save from Finch with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Shildon finally pulled a goal back two minutes into added time when the ball was played into the six yard box from a right wing corner and perhaps inevitably it was danger man Warren Byrne who poked it past Burke from close range. The goal proved little more than a consolation for Shildon, coming too late to prevent their long unbeaten run from coming to an end.
Whitley’s hard earned victory soon turned out to be even more valuable with the news that all of their main championship rivals who were in action had dropped points, with Consett, Dunston and Tow Law all suffering surprise defeats.
Shildon will doubtless be looking to turn the tables on Whitley when the sides meet again on Wednesday evening at Dean Street, but Whitley will travel in the knowledge that they will not be up against Warren Byrne, who is suspended.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor(Fawcett 38mins), Picton, Reid(Reay 45mins), Coulson, Ryan(Bell 60mins), Moore, Kerr, Chow, Robinson, McFarlane.