WHITLEY Bay FC came out on top in the Northern League’s match of the day thanks to an excellent second half performance against third placed Consett.
On a sunny early spring afternoon, the league’s biggest crowd of the season witnessed an entertaining and hard fought game that kept Whitley well in touch with the league leaders and extended their remarkable winning run to 13 games.
Despite the unavailability of David Pounder and Chris Fawcett, and with Glen Taylor and Callum Anderson both injured, Whitley’s strength in depth is such that Ian Chandler was still able to name a very strong squad for what was a crucial game in terms of the championship.
The early stages belonged largely to the visitors, but in spite of their possession, they were unable to break down a resolute Bay defence, where David Coulson and Brian Rowe were commanding.
Whitley’s first attempt on goal came when Craig McFarlane played the ball to Paul Robinson and his shot was pushed wide by Barry Poskett. Steve Gibson was playing a more forward role than recently and after attacking down the right he twice had efforts that hit the side netting.
Little more of incident occurred before the interval, only Chow’s header from a Brian Rowe cross going close for Whitley while right on the whistle, Marc Walton fired wide for Consett.
Ian Chandler felt that Whitley had not been positive enough in the opening period and his half time words seemed to have had the desired effect when after Walton missed what looked an easy chance for the Steelmen with a header woefully off target, McFarlane was just wide with a strong shot two minutes into the second half.
Four minutes later Whitley took the lead and it came when a Consett clearance from near the right corner flag only reached Paul Chow about 25 yards from goal. His cross into the goalmouth was met by Brian Smith, whose glancing header flew past Poskett into the far corner of the net.
An immediate response from the Steelmen resulted in substitute Daniel Craggs volleying a strong shot straight at Burke. In a double substitution, Whitley replaced Gibson and Rowe with Robson and Williams. Whitley were getting well on top at this stage and might have increased their lead after 55 minutes when Kerr’s through ball reached Chow but his shot was blocked.
Whitley were not to be denied for long though and on the hour, Williams and Kerr set up the opportunity for Chow to beat a flat footed Consett defence and chip the ball over Poskett. The keeper got his fingertips to the ball but could not keep it out, as Chow claimed his 25th goal of the season. Still pushing forward, Whitley created another half chance three minutes later when Kerr’s cross was glanced past the post by Coulson.
Consett fought back well and Terry Burke had to make an excellent diving save to push a shot from Gavin Barton wide of the far post, but with just over 20 minutes left, there was nothing Burke could do when Walton drove a tremendous 25 yard shot into the top corner of the net from out on the right.
The game looked wide open again as Consett pushed forward with renewed hope and Burke made another outstanding save, pushing a long range shot from Marc Eccles onto the top of the bar.
Bay substitute Lee Mason might have added a third goal for Whitley with less than ten minutes to go when, with the visitors pushing for an equaliser, he cut in from the right with only Poskett to beat but put his shot the wrong side of the post.
Despite playing an extra striker for the final 15 minutes, Consett could not find a way through the Whitley defence and they were left to regret the ten minute spell early in the second half which was when the game was decided.
For Whitley, as was the case at Shildon ten days earlier, it was another precious three points won against one of their title rivals.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, McFarlane, Gibson (Robson 54 mins), Smith, Coulson, Timmons (Mason 72 mins), Ormston, Rowe (Williams 54 mins), Kerr, Chow, Robinson. Substitutes not used: Hayes, Reay.