|Northumberland Senior Cup Final||n/k|
|Wednesday 11th May 2005||Whitley Bay V Newcastle Benfield Saints||2-0|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
Three years to the day after scoring the goal that won the FA Vase for Whitley Bay, player manager Ian Chandler guided his side to a well deserved victory in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final.
Whitley were up against their Albany Northern League rivals Newcastle Benfield Saints, who were appearing in their first Senior Cup Final. A fine evening and the prospect of a game between two evenly matched sides attracted a good crowd to the Northumberland FA Headquarters at Whitley Park in Benton.
Whitley were quickly into their stride and Benfield keeper Stephen White was in the thick of the action. With just five minutes played, Whitley went close when Ben Ryan cut in from the left and his cross into the box was deflected just wide of the post for a corner. Benfield were struggling to contain the lively Bay attack and two minutes later, they conceded a free kick just outside the area when Adam Johnston was obstructed as he closed in on goal. Johnston took the kick himself but his shot went well over the bar. A move down the right wing saw Steve Leadbitter cross for Johnston and this time the keeper got down well to block the shot.
With Whitley continuing to dominate play, Benfieldís Karl Baston was booked after bringing down Ben Ryan as the Bay looked to capitalise on their superiority. Lee Bellís free kick was well saved but the breakthrough was not long in coming. With 15 minutes played, confusion in the Benfield defence resulting from a poor clearance by Baston left the keeper well off his line and from 20 yards out, Adam Johnston lobbed the ball over White and into an unguarded net. The goal, Johnstonís 25th of the season, was no more than Whitley deserved but it stung Benfield into action. Less than two minutes later, they might have been back on level terms when Stephen Young broke clear of the Bay defence but shot wide when he should at least have tested keeper Terry Burke. Play immediately returned to the other end where Chris Moore brought a diving save from White to deny Whitley a second goal. Gradually Benfield showed more composure in defence and they began to exert pressure on the Whitley rearguard but Leon Ryan and David Coulson looked assured and it was the 34th minute before Burke had a significant save to make, pushing a header over the bar. With half time approaching, Whitley looked comfortable and a good move between Ben Ryan and Johnston ended with the latter seeing his effort pushed inches wide of the post. In stoppage time Benfield briefly threatened with two shots cannoning off a packed defence but at the break Whitley were deservedly ahead.
Two minutes into the second period, Benfieldís former Bay striker Lee Ludlow fired a shot straight at Burke but the keeper comfortably held onto the ball. Shortly after, Whitley suffered a blow when Adam Johnston hobbled off with an ankle injury, but his replacement Lee Kerr was soon in action, firing just wide after good play by Ben Ryan, who was enjoying one of his best games for the club. Kerr then had a header just off target and with Whitley getting on top, Chris Moore produced a great run from midfield but a timely tackle denied him a scoring opportunity.
There was a worrying delay in the game when Terry Burke sustained an injury while making a save but fortunately, he was able to continue after receiving lengthy treatment.
In an effort to rescue the game, Benfield made two substitutions and for a while they forced Whitley to defend but once again, Leon Ryan was in outstanding form at the heart of the Bay defence.
With 15 minutes left, Lee Kerr went close and forced Baston to head behind for a corner, from which David Coulsonís powerful header brought a fine low save from White. With only a single goal in it, Whitley supporters were beginning to look nervously at their watches but in the 83rd minute, Nicky Evans played a good ball wide to Lee Kerr on the right of the area where the young striker unleashed a tremendous shot that beat the outstretched arms of White and flew into the corner of the net to put Whitley two up.
Although Baston hit a shot against the post two minutes later, there was to be no way back for Benfield and after nearly eight minutes of stoppage time, Whitley were able to celebrate winning silverware once again on May 11th. When Leon Ryan lifted the Northumberland Senior Cup, it was the 11th time that Whitley had won the trophy, but the first since 1987.
It was a great way to end the season and a deserved reward for Ian Chandler and his team.
WHITLEY BAY; Burke, Rowe, Bell, Walmsley, L Ryan, Coulson, Leadbitter, Evans, Johnston(Kerr 50mins), B Ryan (Cuggy 87mins), Moore(Fairlamb 89mins)