|skilltrainingltd League Division One||122|
|Saturday 14th March 2009||Morpeth Town V Whitley Bay||2-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Was it the strong wind, the bumpy pitch or a poor performance that brought about this surprise defeat at Morpeth? The answer is probably a combination of all three but it was a day when too many players failed to perform at their normal level, and perhaps the same could be said of the match officials as well.
No one can be at their best in every game and it is to be hoped that Whitley have got their bad day out of their system and will be back in form for the crucial few weeks ahead that could make or break their season.
A strong and gusty wind made conditions difficult and there were holes and bumps in many areas of the Craik Park pitch, so accurate passing and ball control were never going to be easy. Consequently, the action, especially in the first half, was lacking in entertainment, and goalmouth incidents could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
It took 22 minutes before Whitley got a shot on target and it came when Chris Moore broke clear on the right and crossed into the six yard box where Phil Bell sent a powerful header straight at Morpeth keeper Ben Starford. Had the ball gone either side of the keeper, it would have been a certain goal. Shortly afterwards, there was a real scramble as the ball ricocheted around the Morpeth goalmouth but it was eventually cleared.
Just on the half hour, Morpeth’s Alex Benjamin broke into the Whitley penalty area and was judged to have been tripped by Craig McFarlane and the referee immediately awarded a penalty. Viewed from some parts of the ground, the decision appeared harsh but having picked himself up, Benjamin took the spot kick himself and comfortably beat Terry Burke to put the home side in front.
That was just about the sum total of the action in a drab first half when neither side was able to master the conditions.
After the break, Ian Chandler brought on Paul Chow and Callum Anderson for Paul Robinson and Phil Bell. Whitley looked more threatening and it took them just three minutes to draw level. Lee Kerr took an in swinging left wing corner and the ball hit the bar, rebounding in front of goal where Lee Picton reacted first and stabbed the ball into the net.
It looked as if the equaliser would set Whitley on their way to victory but it did not turn out that way as play again became disjointed with the ball bobbling viciously and bouncing unpredictably. A second questionable decision led to Morpeth’s winning goal, which again came after Whitley were penalised. This time, David Coulson tried to clear a high bouncing ball as it swirled in the wind but as he did so he appeared to catch a Morpeth player and the referee gave the home side a free kick in a dangerous position about 20 yards from goal. Whitley’s defensive wall failed to do its job as Damon Mullen drove the kick just inside the far post. The ball shot straight through the side netting, leaving some spectators thinking it had missed the goal. Match officials normally check that the nets are secure before the game and again at half time so that this kind of incident cannot happen, but it seems that they did not do so on this occasion.
Whitley should have been back on level terms within two minutes when Chris Fawcett’s cross from the left beat the home defence but Paul Chow just failed to make contact when he had the goal at his mercy. In the later stages Whitley stepped up the pressure with both David Coulson and Leon Ryan coming up from defence to support the attack but apart from one Coulson header that was directed straight at the keeper and an effort from Chow that was blocked, Whitley failed to get shots on target and could not break down an increasingly determined defence in which Daryll Hall was outstanding.
Perhaps it was just one of those days but it left the Whitley fans, who made up virtually all of the crowd, feeling frustrated and disappointed.
WHITLEY BAY; Burke, Reay(Bone 71mins), Picton, McFarlane, Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Robinson(Anderson 45mins), Kerr, Bell(Chow 45mins), Fawcett