|skilltrainingltd League Division One||301|
|Saturday 21st March 2009||Whitley Bay V Dunston Federation||1-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Dunston provided the expected stern opposition for Whitley in this top of the table game just a week ahead of the FA Vase semi final first leg and a draw was probably a fair result. The game at Federation Park back in October was the only occasion this season when Whitley had failed to score, the home side winning with a last minute goal, and another close game seemed likely.
Dunston, one of the favourites for the Northern League title, looked the better side in the first half but in the later stages of the game Whitley got on top and almost snatched all three points.
On a sunny and mild afternoon, Dunston were the livelier side early on but could make little impression on a solid looking Bay defence. The only chance that Whitley created in the first quarter of the game came when Chris Moore’s cross from the right was not cut out by the visitors but Phil Bell’s touch took the ball just wide of the far post. An early substitution for Whitley saw Chris Reid replaced by Lee Kerr, who perhaps surprisingly started on the bench.
At the other end Coulson and Ryan were dealing effectively with the threat from the visitors, including former Bay striker Mark Sheeran. In midfield Dunston were controlling the game restricting Whitley to occasional breaks upfield. In one such attack, Phil Bell was fouled by Michael Dixon but Lee Kerr’s free kick was comfortably saved.
Both sides were being frustrated by some poor officiating and after Paul Robinson was booked for an innocuous offence, Kerr was penalised when Sheeran stumbled just outside the penalty area, the referee presumably believing that he had been tripped. Fortunately for Whitley, the free kick came to nothing. The visitors looked sure to score just a minute before half time but Leon Ryan somehow managed to control the ball while on the ground in the Bay goalmouth, denying Steve Preen and then clearing the ball to safety.
Almost immediately after half time, Paul Chow broke clear but lobbed the ball over the bar. Seven minutes after the restart, Dunston took the lead after the ball was not properly cleared by the Whitley defence and David Wells drove a first time shot into the roof of the net, giving Rob McLean no chance. At this stage it was looking ominous for Whitley, who had yet to really trouble Barry Poskett in the Dunston goal. The visiting keeper did have to make a save when a Kerr free kick was headed goalwards by Bell and then the same pair combined for Bell to poke another effort just wide of the target.
Whitley were denied a corner when the officials failed to spot a deflection off a Dunston defender but then soon afterwards were gifted a corner kick when the ball clearly went out off a Bay player. Dunston had a chance to put the game beyond Whitley with 20 minutes left but Pickering’s cross from wide on the right was put wide by Sheeran at the back post.
The miss seemed to stir Whitley into a more attacking mood and two minutes later, only a great reaction save by Poskett kept the ball out. Kerr’s shot took a slight deflection from Coulson and the Dunston keeper instinctively stretched out an arm and palmed the ball away from goal. Three minutes later a similar move finally saw Whitley draw level, when Coulson got a touch to Lee Kerr’s free kick and caught Poskett off balance, the ball flying beyond the helpless keeper into the net.
Whitley piled on the pressure in the closing stages, substitute Darren Reay testing Poskett with a powerful effort. Kerr then went close, his shot from Paul Chow’s cross clipping the outside of the post. Craig McFarlane then tried his luck with a shot from the left that the keeper saved. Dunston seemed content to settle for a point but had Whitley stepped up the pace a little earlier they might well have come away with a victory.
Plus points included Damon Robson continuing his return to fitness with a full 90 minutes on the pitch, while Lee Kerr, Leon Ryan and David Coulson in particular all worked hard throughout a tough game against a strong side. Callum Anderson again showed a lot of promise when he came off the bench, notably making a vital tackle to deny Dunston a chance on goal midway through the second half.
WHITLEY BAY: McLean, McFarlane, Picton, Robinson(Reay 45mins), Coulson, Ryan, Moore(Anderson 64mins), Robson, Chow, Bell, Reid(Kerr 12mins)