|skilltrainingltd League Division One||210|
|Saturday 9th August 2008||Whitley Bay V Tow Law Town||3-5|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
After the optimism brought about by a successful pre-season, Whitley began their Northern League programme in the worst possible way when they suffered a shock defeat at home to Tow Law. Games between the two sides are usually closely contested but for long periods of this match it was the visitors who looked the better team and they fully deserved their victory.
Even before kick off, Whitley fans were questioning the team selection with Paul Chow on the bench while defender Leon Ryan, back at the club after a two year absence, was named alongside Lee Kerr in attack. Damon Robson, Mark Taylor and Lee Picton were all on holiday.
Morning rain had given way to drier conditions by kick off and the Hillheads pitch was looking in excellent condition.
Tow Law quickly showed their attacking intentions when in the first minute Terry Burke did well to save a deflected shot at full stretch. Two minutes later Lawyer’s captain Mark Eccles cut in from the left and forced Burke to make an excellent save, pushing the ball over the bar at the expense of a corner.
Whitley responded well with Craig McFarlane, a summer signing from Bedlington, testing visiting keeper Simon Bishop with a shot that he could only palm away. The ball fell for Ryan in front of goal but his shot was cleared off the line. A minute later, Lee Kerr drove the ball inches wide of the post with Bishop caught by surprise and relieved to see the ball go behind. The lively opening continued with Henderson going narrowly wide at the other end with less than ten minutes played.
Tow Law were having the better of the game and they went close from a left wing corner, Hollingsworth heading just over the bar. Straight from the goal kick, a misdirected header from the visitors defence found Chris Moore on the right side of midfield. He advanced then cut in before shooting from just outside the penalty area. His shot took a deflection off Hollingsworth, leaving Bishop wrong footed as the ball flew past him into the net to give Whitley a 17th minute lead, which came somewhat against the run of play.
The set back shook the visitors and Whitley came rather more into the game but they suffered a blow after 26 minutes when influential midfielder Paul Robinson hobbled off the field with what appeared to be a calf injury and had to be replaced by Christian Graham.
Whitley were creating few chances but managed to hold on to their lead and might have got a second goal in first half stoppage time when Bishop could only parry a shot from Kerr and although the ball ran loose, the Tow Law keeper was able to recover and reclaim the ball.
Fortunate to be ahead at the interval, Whitley needed to gain control of midfield but missing the injured Robinson and without Damon Robson, their options were limited. Two minutes after the restart, the Lawyers were level and it was no more than they deserved when Christopher Renshaw seized on hesitancy by Brian Smith when the ball came across from the left and nudged the ball over the line. Nine minutes later they were in front when the ball was crossed from the right and Eccles, at the back post, volleyed the ball into the roof of the net with Burke helpless.
At this point, Chow was brought off the bench and Ryan reverted to his defensive role. Still Tow Law looked dominant as they battled for every ball while Whitley seemed to lack ideas, and Johnson saw a good effort pushed wide by Burke. With 65 minutes played, David Henderson raced through the Bay defence and fired a great shot that went in off the far post to give his side a 3-1 lead.
Mark Minto was introduced to add pace into the Bay attack but surprisingly it was captain David Coulson who he replaced. At last, Whitley began to pose a threat up front and it was the two substitutes who seemed to be making the difference. Strong appeals for a penalty were ignored when Craig McFarlane appeared to be tripped as he advanced on goal but moments later he played the ball across the penalty area to Chow who took it wide of the keeper before firing into an empty net. Whitley were back in the game and with ten minutes left, Darren Timmons crossed from the left and Chow did well to reach the ball but the angle was too great and he could only put the ball into the side netting. Five minutes from time, after a good ball down the right from Ryan, McFarlane crashed the ball against the post and Chow smashed the rebound home for the equaliser.
The stirring comeback had lifted the crowd, who were urging Whitley on to what would have been an unlikely victory. Certainly they must have thought they had rescued a point, but lack of concentration cost them dear when straight from the restart, Tow Law broke upfield and Matthew Gowland put the County Durham side back in front. With just four minutes left, Whitley looked deflated and they were dealt a final blow as the game went into stoppage time when Gavin Mudd lobbed the ball from distance over Burke into the top corner of the net.
On the evidence of this game, Tow Law look a more than useful side but without Robinson and Robson, Whitley struggled in midfield and it is to be hoped that the injury to Robinson does not keep him out of the side for long.
WHITLEY BAY; Burke, Timmons, McFarlane, Smith, Coulson(Minto 69mins), Woodhouse, Moore, Livermore(Chow 56mins), Kerr, Ryan, Robinson(Graham 26mins)