|skilltrainingltd League Division One||200|
|Monday 6th April 2009||Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics V Whitley Bay||0-0|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Coming little more than 24 hours after the players returned from Lowestoft, this top of the table local derby was inevitably going to be a tough challenge for Whitley but they showed little sign of fatigue and fully deserved a share of the points. Indeed they finished much the stronger and there could have been no complaints from Benfield had Whitley taken all three points.
Perhaps the least likely score line was 0-0, since both sides have scored over 60 league goals this season and neither had featured in a goal less game. This was in fact only the second time in 49 games this season that Whitley had failed to score.
It was a damp evening at the Sam Smiths ground but the weather failed to dampen the spirits of the large contingent of Whitley fans whose smiles had hardly left their faces since Saturday afternoon.
Talk on the return journey from Lowestoft had been about the team that would turn out but contrary to some expectations, nine of the starting line up had played on Saturday, the only exceptions being Paul Robinson and Rob McLean.
Whitley began brightly, forcing two early corners but for the most part, two evenly matched sides, strong in defence prevented goal scoring opportunities and play was a midfield battle.
Midway through the first half, Chris Moore’s cross was pushed behind by keeper Andrew Grainger, just ahead of Paul Chow, then McLean made an excellent save eight minutes before the interval when Benfield briefly threatened.
After half time Whitley looked comfortable and Benfield, the in-form team of the league, were making little impression as Leon Ryan and the rest of the Bay defence were as assured as they were at Lowestoft.
Ian Chandler reshuffled his team midway through the half, bringing on Chris Reid, Callum Anderson and Phil Bell and Anderson was quickly involved as he was played clear in the 71st minute but Grainger did well to block his shot. The Benfield keeper had to be alert a few minutes later, making another crucial save.
Whitley stepped up the pace significantly in the last ten minutes and when Reid played a good ball through the Benfield defence, Phil Bell sent a fierce shot just inches over the bar. At the other end top scorer Michael Chilton had a header palmed over the bar by the alert McLean but with stoppage time approaching, Reid broke away on the left wing before cutting in and sending a shot across Grainger. The ball hit the inside of the far post and was hacked behind for a corner by a Benfield defender. Still Whitley pushed forward in the hope of snatching a late winner and it so nearly came when a bit of trickery by Paul Robinson took him past the keeper but momentary hesitation allowed a defender to get back and clear what turned out to be a rather weakly struck shot.
Against one of the top sides in the league this was a good performance by Whitley but the tough games do not stop here. West Allotment away on Good Friday will provide another stern test and an opportunity to avenge a 3-1 defeat just after Christmas.
WHITLEY BAY; McLean, Taylor, Reay(Anderson 62mins), McFarlane, Coulson, Ryan, Moore(Reid 54mins), Robinson, Kerr Chow(Bell 68mins), Fawcett.