|Arngrove Northern League Division One||75|
|Wednesday 16th April 2008||West Auckland Town V Whitley Bay||1-1|
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Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley picked up a point at West Auckland on Wednesday from a game that at one stage they looked like losing but in the end they might have won.
That said, this was a generally poor game and Whitley could have been several goals down after a dismal display during the first half hour. With both Brian Rowe and Robbie Livermore suspended and the hectic fixture schedule beginning to take its toll, Whitley’s resources were stretched and both manager Ian Chandler and his assistant Steve Cuggy were named among the substitutes.
On a bitterly cold evening more typical of January than April the teams had to contend with a poor playing surface on which passes frequently went astray. The conditions can only partly account for Whitley gifting the lead to the home side with only four minutes played. The goal came when Terry Burke mishit a clearance to Stuart Owen and when he raced out to block the ball he slipped and allowed Owen to cross for Dale Jardine to bundle the ball across the line.
Whitley were looking very shaky with misplaced passes giving possession to the home side and it was just as well that Burke partly redeemed himself three minutes later when he pushed a shot round the post after the defence in front of him had been cut open. With nine minutes played, Jardine should have increased the lead but after he had been put clear on goal he hit his shot into the side netting. Every attack saw West Auckland threaten to score and apart from a long range effort from Graham that went over the bar, Whitley were very much on the defensive.
It came against the run of play when Whitley equalised just after the half hour mark and as with the first goal it was the result of a defensive mistake. In a rare attack, Paul Chow did well to take the ball to the by-line and when he cut it back across the face of goal, defender Thomas Louden, under pressure from Lee Kerr, stuck out a foot and the ball flew into the bottom corner of the net with keeper Mark Bell out of position.
Mark Minto saw a shot pushed wide by Bell but shortly before the interval, Jardine wasted another chance for the home side when he blazed his shot over the bar with only Burke to beat.
With their side fortunate to be level at the break, Whitley fans were hoping that the second half would bring a more positive performance with the team playing down the slope. However, West Auckland again went close when a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Bay area after it had taken two defenders to stop a dangerous run by Bryan Stewart. The home side believed they had been denied a penalty, claiming the foul had been committed inside the penalty area but Fairhurst’s free kick flew over the bar. Stewart was proving a problem for Whitley with his pace on the ball and on a number of occasions he evaded challenges from several Bay defenders as he threatened to cut right through the defence.
Gradually though, Whitley came more into the game and at last they put some pressure on the home defence but they created few chances with Chris Moore having little luck on the right wing. The introduction of Paul Robinson for the last 20 minutes helped Whitley to take control of midfield and the home side struggled to get the ball out of their own half. Another Bay substitute, Anthony Woodhouse, nearly set up a winner with a good through ball but Mark Minto shot straight at Bell when clear on goal.
In the end, it was West Auckland who were relieved to hear the final whistle as they collected a point that could prove crucial in their bid to stay clear of the relegation zone. On the other hand Whitley, who had not drawn in 17 games before Saturday, have now drawn their last two and are only two points clear of third placed Consett.
Whitley’s chances of holding on to the runners up position are beginning to look precarious and may depend on the game at Consett a week on Saturday when a much improved performance will be needed.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor, Minto, Smith, Coulson(Robinson 69mins), Graham(Woodhouse 63mins), Moore, Robson, Kerr, Chow(Reay 77mins), Dugdale.