|Arngrove Northern League Division One||81|
|Wednesday 23rd April 2008||Billingham Synthonia V Whitley Bay||1-5|
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Match Report By Julian Tyley
Whitley rewarded their travelling fans with a tremendous last half hour of Wednesday’s game at Billingham and in doing so inched back ahead of Consett in the battle for second place in the Northern League table.
On their recent travels Whitley have had to contend with poor playing surfaces and often windy conditions but on a fine spring evening on Teesside, Synthonia’s excellent pitch suited the passing game that Bay fans have enjoyed so often this season.
Whitley were quickly on the attack and with barely four minutes gone, Christian Graham tried his luck from 20 yards but the ball flew over the bar. The opening goal was not long in coming and it arrived after ten minutes when Lee Kerr seized on a misplaced backpass, rounded the keeper and put the ball into the net from ten yards. Synners fought back quickly and when Whitley were penalised for a foul wide on the right, Simon Shaw floated the free kick into the top corner of the net beyond Terry Burke, with the Bay keeper possibly losing sight of the ball in the low sun.
Five minutes later Whitley almost regained the lead when Kerr, who was looking a threat down the left smashed a shot against the base of the post with keeper Liam Nixon well beaten.
From this point on, the game drifted with neither side managing to string a series of passes together and chances were at a premium. With the score unchanged at the interval the thought of a fourth successive 1-1 draw seemed a real possibility but after the break, Whitley began to pose a greater threat. Almost immediately, Damon Robson fired a shot just wide of goal then from a Robinson free kick, Coulson headed just over the bar. Just before the hour mark, Paul Chow was brought off the bench to replace youngster Darren Reay and it was he who put Whitley back in front. Chris Moore began to trouble the Synners on the right wing and his cross into the goalmouth after 65 minutes saw Chow fire past Nixon. Four minutes later, Paul Robinson’s free kick was headed down by David Coulson to Anthony Woodhouse who gleefully drilled the ball home to put Whitley in command at 3-1 up.
Billingham had little to offer now and Whitley exuded confidence with Damon Robson again going close with a 15 yard effort after the home defence had struggled to clear the ball.
With six minutes remaining came one of the biggest cheers of the evening from the Whitley fans when manager Ian Chandler came off the bench for a now rare appearance. With his arrival Whitley were fielding two players who have scored more than 100 goals for the club, something that had not previously happened for almost 40 years. The manager was soon celebrating with his fellow ‘100 Club’ member when Lee Kerr added Whitley’s fourth from close range following Robinson’s right wing corner. Moments later, Whitley’s management duo were both on the pitch when Steve Cuggy replaced Mark Minto for the last five minutes.
The goal of the game was yet to come and it was certainly worth the wait as Lee Kerr raced down the left past two dispirited Billingham defenders before unleashing a superb shot that flew past Nixon into the top corner of the net. The goal completed Kerr’s fourth hat trick of the season and took him to fifth on the club’s all time list, with 103 goals, one ahead of 60’s legend Neal Walton.
This was Whitley’s biggest ever win at Central Avenue and the evening was made even better when news came through that rivals for second place Consett had been held to a draw at home by West Auckland.
These results mean that a victory for Whitley at Consett on Saturday would guarantee them runners up spot. Any other result would mean that the final placings would be decided by the last games of the season, with Whitley facing champions Durham at home on Tuesday while Consett take on Newcastle Benfield the following night.
Just when it looked as if the season was drifting away in anti climax a dramatic finale is in prospect! What else would you expect with Ian Chandler’s Whitley Bay side?
WHITLEY BAY; Burke, Taylor, Minto(Cuggy 85mins), Woodhouse, Coulson, Graham(Chandler 84mins), Moore, Robson, Kerr, Reay(Chow 57mins), Robinson