|skilltrainingltd League Division One||405|
|Monday 22nd February 2010||Whitley Bay V West Allotment Celtic||1-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley dropped points at home for only the fourth time this season when they were held to a draw by local rivals West Allotment Celtic. The result was not totally surprising coming just five days ahead of the FA Vase Quarter Final at Shildon and with several key players missing from the starting line up. Leon Ryan, Darren Timmons and Chris Fawcett were out injured while Paul Robinson, Craig McFarlane and Paul Chow were all on the bench.
Nevertheless it was still a strong looking line up that began the game and in front of a healthy Monday evening crowd, Whitley might have scored inside the first minute when Phil Bell broke away on the right and cut in before firing the ball into the side netting.
Both sides were looking to attack but Whitley had the better of the early exchanges and deservedly went in front after 14 minutes when Adam Johnston ran at the Allotment defence, went past two players before drilling a low shot past keeper Chris Bannon from 10 yards. For a while Whitley looked comfortable but the visitors gradually gained more of the possession and looked a threat, as they gained the upper hand in midfield with Daniel Hindmarsh and Paul Gardiner prominent.
Whitley seemed to be the victims of a series of harsh decisions by the referee, with three players booked for fouls that were barely worthy of a verbal warning. Inconsistency of this sort by match officials frustrates players and fans alike, especially coming just two days after a game when the match referee did not caution any players despite numerous fouls of a similar nature being committed. Chris Moore was increasingly being used as the main route of attacking the Allotment defence and although well policed, seven minutes before the break he got clear on the right and drove a fierce shot just inches over the bar. Four minutes later Whitley had an even better chance to extend their lead when following a long throw by Lee Picton, the ball was headed back out to the Bay defender whose cross into the goalmouth reached Phil Bell but his header although on target lacked power and Bannon made a comfortable save.
A minute before half time, the visitors drew level when Bay defender Christopher Compson, brought in from the Reserves for his first team debut, tripped an Allotment player on the right edge of the penalty area. Michael Latimer took the spot kick and comfortably beat Terry Burke to leave the game evenly balanced at the interval.
The second half began with Whitley making two changes, Robinson and McFarlane replacing Compson and Reid and the move helped Whitley to get a better grip of the midfield. Despite this, they failed to trouble the Allotment defence for whom Kevin Hughes was doing a fine containing job. Phil Bell directed a header straight at Bannon but just past the hour he was replaced by Paul Chow, who quickly got in on the action, playing the ball through to Richard Hodgson whose close range effort was blocked. A minute later, Chris Moore’s corner caused confusion in the goalmouth before being scrambled away to safety.
The visitors looked dangerous on the break with Gardiner frequently finding space on the right but he could not get a telling shot on target, with Burke smothering two attempts while Damon Robson and at times Lee Kerr were getting through a great deal of work at the back.
With 15 minutes remaining, Whitley fans were cheering what looked like a perfectly good goal when a cross from the right was played on by Chow, and Johnston running in behind the defence sent a diving header into the net. However, the assistant referee raise his flag for what can only be described as a highly dubious off side decision and the ‘goal’ was ruled out.
Whitley were beginning to exert real pressure now and Lee Kerr brought a fingertip save from Bannon with an angled shot across goal. Picton’s long throw was headed on by Coulson but again the keeper made the save. Chris Moore then tested Bannon with a stinging shot that was pushed wide.
Allotment were still quick to break and more than once it looked as if they might steal the points but the Bay defence held firm.
Despite lacking the fluency of their pre Christmas form, Whitley still battled away for a winning goal and with just three minutes of the 90 to go, a great low cross from Picton out on the left beat the Allotment defence and just needed a touch to put it in the net but both Chow and Hodgson, diving in just failed to get to the ball.
The reactions at the final whistle suggested that the visitors were delighted to come away with a point while Whitley were clearly frustrated as much by their form as their failure to extend their four match winning run.
This is not the first time that a disappointing performance has preceded a big FA Vase game and all Bay fans will be hoping that come Saturday, with players returning from injury, Whitley can recapture the form that will undoubtedly be needed if they are to retain hopes of another trip to Wembley in May.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Compson(Robinson 46mins), Picton, Hodgson, Coulson, Reid(McFarlane 46mins), Moore, Robson, Kerr, Bell(Chow 63mins), Johnston
Subs not used: Kindley, Waite
Referee: J Hunt