Earliest FA Vase exit in 11 years for Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay's Alex Kempster wins a header above teammate Ryan Keltie. Picture by Julian Tyley
Whitley Bay's Alex Kempster wins a header above teammate Ryan Keltie. Picture by Julian Tyley
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Whitley Bay suffered their earliest FA Vase exit for 11 years when they were knocked out at the second qualifying round stage by Northern League newcomers Stockton Town.

It was a dismal performance by the four-time winners against a side who are taking part in the competition for the first time.

Stockton, unbeaten in all competitions this season, were the better side from start to finish and thoroughly deserved their victory.

In what was the biggest game in their relatively short history, they showed no nerves and were soon on the attack.

With less than six minutes played, top scorer Kallum Hannah gave Whitley a warning of what was to come when Tom Flynn stretched to palm his shot onto the bar with the ball rebounding away from goal.

The home side were struggling to get a foothold in the game but after 11 minutes Chris McDonald cut in from the left and his shot was deflected just wide of the post.

Stockton went close eight minutes later when Alan Nicholson headed over the bar from a right wing corner, and as the visitors kept up the pressure, defender Ross Wilkinson cleared a dangerous ball from the left wing high over the bar.

Callum Patton tried a shot at the other end but it was easily saved, then McDonald set up an opportunity for Kyle Fryatt but alert defending denied him a shot on goal.

Whitley were struggling to get a grip of midfield and passes were going astray as attacking moves quickly broke down.

Stockton were testing Bay with pace down the left wing in particular, and as they made better use of their possession, a shot from Alan Cossavella hit the frame of the goal before being pushed behind by Flynn.

Whitley were coming under increasing pressure and Ryan Keltie had to make a goal line clearance, hooking the ball away from danger.

Three minutes before the interval, Whitley created their best chance of the half when Andy Robertson turned inside the six-yard box and his low shot was saved by keeper Michael Arthur diving to his right.

It remained goal less at half-time but it was clear that Whitley needed to improve considerably if they were to stay in the competition.

Hopes of a second half change in fortune were quickly dented when, just three minutes after the restart, the visitors took the lead, Nicholson heading home at the back post from a left wing corner.

It was no more than they deserved, but it failed to spark a revival from a lacklustre Bay side, and it came as little surprise when Fryatt, who had struggled against the tall Stockton defenders, was substituted midway through the half, with Steve Gibson coming off the bench and Ross Wilkinson being pushed forward to add height in attack.

After Kempster’s header had forced a rare save from Arthur, play switched to the other end where a cross from the left was not cut out and Scaife Wheatley poked the ball home from close range.

Two goals up, Stockton were now scenting a shock victory, but with 22 minutes remaining, Whitley still had time to force their way back into the game.

But despite the introduction of Shanks and Potter, they rarely threatened to break through and the Stockton defence coped efficiently, with Nicholson and Coulthard commanding in the air and ensuring that Arthur had barely a shot to save.

Right at the end, with the game entering stoppage time, Whitley showed rather more endeavour, Kempster setting up Wilkinson for a header that was just too high, then Shanks provided Potter with a chance that he struck narrowly wide of the post before Potter’s header from McDonald’s corner was held on the line by Arthur.

It was all too little too late, no more than a whimper as Whitley meekly surrendered their place in the competition where they had achieved unprecedented success in previous years.

A bitterly disappointed Bay manager Ian Chandler said that it was the worst performance of the season, no spark, nothing, with no player performing to any kind of acceptable level.

Whitley Bay: Flynn, Kempster, Fowler, Haley, Fryatt (Gibson 65), Robertson (Potter 76), Keltie, Patton (Shanks 69), Anderson, Wilkinson, McDonald. Subs not used: Munro, Eleftheriadis.

Attendance: 322.

Following their Wednesday evening visit to Morpeth Town, Whitley Bay are away to Seaham Red Star on Saturday before welcoming Chester-le-Street Town to Hillheads on Tuesday, October 4, kick-off 7.30pm.