|FA Vase Semi-Final 2nd Leg||2250|
|Saturday 4th April 2009||Lowestoft Town V Whitley Bay||1-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
We're on our way to Wembley!
A hard fought and at times nail biting 1-1 draw away to Lowestoft Town in Saturday’s semi final second leg gave Whitley a 3-2 win on aggregate and secured their place in the FA Vase Final against Derbyshire side Glossop North End at Wembley on Sunday 10th May.Players, along with club officials and supporters, were celebrating long into the night on Saturday after the historic victory in the East Anglian sunshine which means that Whitley Bay will become the first team from the north east to play at the new Wembley Stadium.
Ian Chandler wrote his own bit of history on Saturday; having scored the winner at Villa Park in 2002 he will now have the honour of leading his side out at Wembley. Whitley’s achievement is all the more remarkable as they are the first north east side ever to appear in two FA Vase finals.
Twelve months ago, Lowestoft fans celebrated on the Hillheads pitch after earning a date at Wembley so perhaps justice was done as the 200 travelling Bay fans invaded the Crown Meadow pitch to party with the players at full time on Saturday.
Whitley did not make life easy for themselves or their fans however, conceding a goal inside the first three minutes, a goal which cancelled out their advantage from the first leg. The goal came when a free kick into the goalmouth was headed on and an attempted clearance fell to Lowestoft captain Darren Cockrill who scored from close range.
Whitley responded positively and Adam Johnston, who had recovered from the ankle injury that he suffered in the first leg, forced Reynolds to push away an angled shot after Picton’s throw was not cleared. Minutes later, Leon Ryan sent a header straight at Reynolds as Whitley kept up the pressure. The goal that was ultimately to decide the game came in the 14th minute when Lee Kerr’s perfectly flighted left wing corner was headed powerfully into the roof of the net by Ryan.
Not only did this put Whitley back in front but it quietened the majority of the 2250 strong crowd. The vocal Bay fans near the corner flag at the top end of the ground were in full voice however!
Lowestoft quickly went on the attack but it was again Ryan, now in his usual role at the heart of the defence, who headed clear from a corner at the other end.
Godbold, scorer of Lowestoft’s late goal at Hillheads in the first leg, was cautioned by the referee for a challenge on Lee Picton when the Bay defender made a timely clearance. Picton took a knock but was able to continue after receiving attention.
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With 26 minutes played, disaster struck for Whitley when Lee Kerr, playing in a five man midfield, raced into a challenge with Godbold for a loose ball. He won the ball but also appeared to catch the Lowestoft player and was immediately shown a red card by Oxfordshire referee Graham Scott, who obviously deemed the challenge to be dangerous.
Down to ten men with more than an hour still to play, things were looking grim for Whitley, but if anything, the dismissal galvanised them even more and they battled on determined to keep their lead. Despite their one man advantage, Lowestoft could not break down a resolute Whitley defence, the nearest they came before the interval being when Gary McGee clipped the top of the bar with a shot from out on the right. Terry Burke then did well to punch Cockrill’s header clear in a crowded goalmouth.
Chris Moore relieved the pressure when he broke away down the right but Reynolds comfortably saved his shot from 15 yards. Just before the break, Burke easily held onto an effort from Russell Stock and Whitley went in still ahead on aggregate and just 45 minutes from Wembley.
It looked like being a long and hard 45 minutes however, with the home side having a one man advantage but Whitley started the second half the better. Straight from the restart, Moore played Johnston through but Reynolds saved comfortably. Five minutes later, Phil Bell’s header into the goalmouth gave Ryan a great chance but his shot crashed off the post and away with Reynolds beaten.
Lowestoft fought back and Hunn fired over the bar, setting a pattern that was to continue for the remainder of the game. Whitley, made two substitutions around the hour mark, bringing on Chris Fawcett in place of Adam Johnston, who was beginning to feel the effects of his ankle injury. Phil Bell, who had played an excellent role as Whitley’s lone striker winning numerous high balls and also unsettling the home defence by chasing down every ball, gave way to Paul Chow for the last half hour. Many Bay fans had been surprised to see Chow, the club’s top scorer, not in the starting line up but Ian Chandler’s tactics proved to be spot on as fresh legs in attack kept the pressure on the Lowestoft defence as they tried to push forward needing a goal to force extra time.
The two substitutes soon made an impact, creating an opening from which Fawcett poked the ball towards goal when a stronger contact could have beaten Reynolds.
There were gasps from the home fans as an effort from Stock flew over the bar from close range. Godbold, out on the right then fired high over the bar. Home fans were becoming frustrated with their side’s policy of playing high balls into the penalty area rather than keeping the ball on the ground. The result was that Coulson and in particular Ryan, who was proving a colossus in the Bay defence, won every ball and gave the home strikers nothing to feed on. Indeed, Terry Burke had very few saves to make in the second half.
As the minutes ticked away, more urgency but less fluency came into Lowestoft’s play. Goal kicks were misplaced and shots from distance failed to hit the target. Whitley were always a threat and might have ended the hopes of the Trawler Boys with nine minutes left, when Moore’s corner was headed on by Ryan and Plaskett appeared to handle the ball. In the scramble that followed, Craig McFarlane, another man who played superbly well throughout, all but put the ball into the net, Marsden just managing to get a boot the ball inches from the line.
Damon Robson, who had played his heart out and battled superbly throughout the game, began to run out of steam and was replaced for the final few minutes by Darren Reay, hero of the win at Penrith in the 3rd Round.
For Whitley fans the final minutes seemed like an eternity as Lowestoft desperately searched for a late goal but just as the fourth official indicated an agonising four minutes of stoppage time, Paul Chow so nearly settled the game with a shot across the face of goal that Reynolds could only parry and grab as it trickled towards goal.
Then with a minute of added time left Woodrow volleyed a final effort for the home side on to the top of the bar.
Seconds later the final whistle blew and the Whitley team were engulfed by the travelling fans amid emotional scenes both on and off the pitch. Every member of the side had played their part in a momentous victory but few could argue that Leon Ryan, scorer of the crucial goal and truly outstanding in defence, was deservedly man of the match.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor, Picton, McFarlane, Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Robson (Reay 84mins), Bell(Chow 65mins), Kerr, Johnston(Fawcett 60mins) Subs not used: Robinson, McLean