|skilltrainingltd League Division One||438|
|Saturday 25th April 2009||Spennymoor Town V Whitley Bay||2-3|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley kept their title hopes alive with a tremendous come back after going two goals down inside the opening 20 minutes at Spennymoor. Not only were the Moors top of the table but they also had the best home record in the league, with only one defeat in the league all season.
The game was rightly billed as the Northern League match of the day and 438 fans, the biggest crowd of the season at the Brewery Field, produced an excellent atmosphere with Whitley supporters turning up in huge numbers.
With Lee Kerr starting his three match ban, Adam Johnston made a welcome return to the side following injury and was up against one of his former clubs.
Spennymoor played down the slope in the first half and made an impressive start, immediately forcing Whitley on the back foot with some slick passing and incisive attacking play. It took Whitley some time to get into the game and when they did so, Johnston pressurised defender Carl Beasley to concede a corner that was quickly cleared. At the other end, a corner was taken short and Peacock brought a save from Terry Burke.
With 14 minutes played, Spennymoor took the lead with a very well worked goal. A long ball out of defence by Gareth Waite reached Craig Ruddy on the right edge of the Whitley penalty area. His cross into the goalmouth found leading scorer Jamie Clarke whose first time shot gave Burke no chance, going in off the underside of the bar. It was no more than the home side deserved and three minutes later, Whitley’s plight became even worse when Terry Burke seemed caught in two minds as to whether to collect the ball when there seemed little threat on goal. However, when he went for it he slipped at the crucial moment and allowed the ball to go straight through him. The mistake presented Karl Richards with the easiest goal that he will ever score, tapping the loose ball into an empty net, to the delight of the vociferous home fans behind the goal.
Spennymoor were rampant with Whitley under almost continuous pressure and for the next ten minutes the ball rarely got beyond the half way line. Whitley were struggling to string passes together but then, out of the blue, they got back in the game just two minutes before the interval with what was virtually their first shot on target. Paul Chow from wide on the left cut the ball back to Adam Johnston, who struck a great first time shot from 20 yards out leaving Moors keeper Niki Lawson wrong footed as the ball flew into the bottom corner of the net. This turned out to be a crucial goal and arguably the turning point of the game. For all their dominance, Spennymoor were just one goal ahead and Whitley now had the advantage of the slope in the second half.
The cliché ‘a game of two halves’ was never more appropriate as Whitley proceeded to dominate play just as their hosts had done earlier.
Ian Chandler had already brought on Lee Picton and now introduced Phil Bell in place of Paul Robinson. The extra height in attack quickly had an impact when Picton sent a long throw from the left into the goalmouth. Under pressure from Bell, Jamie Clarke headed the ball back over his own keeper into the top corner of the net. David Coulson made sure but the ball had already crossed the line.
Having levelled the score and urged on by their increasingly enthusiastic fans, Whitley penned the home side back in defence. In addition to the slope, Whitley now had a breeze and rain at their backs. Shots poured in on goal, Fawcett sending a 25 yard effort wide before a looping shot from Bell was saved by keeper Lawson at the back post, but at the cost of a painful injury as he back pedalled into the goalpost. After treatment he was able to continue but was then fortunate not to concede a penalty after he pushed Johnston as they both went for the ball but the officials failed to respond to the offence. This was just one of a number of occasions when both sides had justifiable cause for complaint about a lack of decision making where infringements appeared to go unnoticed. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball ricochet across the six yard box as Spennymoor brought men back to help out the overworked defence. More shots rained in on the home goal with Fawcett, Johnston and Reay all going close.
Spennymoor had to bring players back to help stem the tide of Bay attacks but in doing so that limited their attacking options. However, a rare breakaway upfield gave the dangerous looking Peacock a chance but his powerful shot was gathered by Burke at full stretch. Back down the slope, Paul Chow’s goal bound header was cleared off the line by Beasley after Chris Moore had set up the chance.
With 14 minutes remaining, Whitley won a corner on the left and Moore’s ball caused panic in the goalmouth where David Coulson fired the ball home from close range to send the Whitley fans gathered behind the goal wild with delight.
A few minutes later, Adam Johnston, who had worked hard and scored the crucial first goal, pulled up with cramp and was replaced by Chris Reid.
Whitley continued to dominate play and with every member of the team playing their part, they might have increased their lead.
The significance of the game was clear to see at the final whistle, with Whitley still in with a chance of clinching the title and leaving the field to rapturous applause from their fans. Home supporters felt that this was probably the best game they had seen this season and were honest enough to admit that Whitley deserved to win although they were obviously disappointed to see their side concede a two goal lead.
The game leaves Whitley still needing to win all of their remaining games and hoping that other sides drop points. Remarkably at this stage of the season, there are four teams still in with a realistic chance of winning the title.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor(Picton 27mins), Reay, Robson, Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Fawcett, Chow, Johnston(Reid 79mins), Robinson(Bell 53mins)