FA VASE FINAL AT WEMBLEY
WHITLEY BAY 2 GLOSSOP NORTH END 0
They’re the famous Whitley Bay and they won at Wembley!!!
How good does that sound? A headline from Monday’s Journal and well worth repeating here!
The excitement of the occasion meant that not every detail of the game was noted down but the big screen action replays at both ends of the stadium were great for the fans and reporters. Now if only we could get one of those screens at Hillheads!
A truly glorious day in every sense of the word ended with Whitley becoming the first team from the north east to win a cup final at the new Wembley Stadium. This was of course the second time that Whitley have won the FA Vase, a feat never previously achieved by a team from the region. Sunday’s success at a sunbathed Wembley makes Whitley only the fifth team ever to win the Vase more than once since it was first contested in 1975 to replace the old FA Amateur Cup.
Whitley thoroughly deserved their victory as they were the better side for long periods of the game and created far more chances than their Derbyshire opponents Glossop North End.
Unlike Whitley’s previous Vase Final at Villa Park, this was an exciting, action packed, end to end game with both sides contributing and creating opportunities. The playing surface, which had been criticised by certain Premier League Managers had been relaid and was in perfect condition.
Early on, Lee Picton’s long throw brought a goal line save from Glossop keeper Matt Cooper, but the first moment of real excitement came with 16 minutes on the clock when Adam Johnston saw Cooper off his line and tried a spectacular 60 yard shot from inside his own half. It seemed for a moment that the ball would drift over the keeper but he back pedalled rapidly and just managed to palm the ball onto the crossbar to prevent what would have been one of the most spectacular goals ever seen at the new stadium.
Glossop hit back six minutes later with what proved to be their best effort of the game, when Nick Bailey cut in from the right and struck a great shot which rebounded off the angle of post and bar with Terry Burke beaten.
Having started the game with Chris Moore out on the left, Whitley made a tactical switch, with Moore moving across to his more familiar right wing and Craig McFarlane taking over on the left.
Gradually Whitley took control forcing two corners but Glossop came back with Darren Hamilton bringing a low save from Burke just past the half hour.
The massed ranks of north east fans erupted with joy four minutes later when Whitley took the lead with an excellent goal. Paul Chow played the ball square to Lee Kerr on the right edge of the Glossop penalty area and Kerr’s neat touch took him past two floundering Glossop defenders before drilling the ball low past Cooper into the far corner of the net.
Glossop battled back and little more than a minute before half time, Dave Hodges, a left winger who Whitley had identified as a potential threat, crossed into the box where Allen and Morris almost made contact but Lee Picton blocked the ball and it was cleared.
Quickly Whitley broke away down the right through Chris Moore whose pace troubled the North West Counties side all afternoon. Then when Johnston slipped the ball through to Paul Chow, Whitley’s top scorer found himself clear on goal and he clipped the ball over Cooper who got his fingers to the ball but could not prevent it looping over him into the net to give Whitley a precious two goal lead with only seconds of the half remaining. The goal was Chow’s 40th of the season, a total only previously achieved by two Whitley greats, Ray Oliver from the 1950’s and the late Billy Wright, hero of the 1960’s.
Glossop may have felt aggrieved to be 2-0 down after contributing much to the opening half, but along with many of Whitley’s opponents this season, they had felt the impact of a potent strike force that with Chow’s goal had broken the Club’s all time scoring record in a season, reaching 154 goals.
After the interval Whitley continued to pose the greater threat and Chow might have added a third goal when he held off two challenges before driving the ball just over the bar. Craig McFarlane then played the ball through to Johnston whose shot was bravely blocked by Cooper’s feet. A double substitution just before the hour saw Johnston and McFarlane replaced by Phil Bell and Chris Fawcett, giving Whitley fresh legs just as the heat of the Wembley afternoon was beginning to take its toll. The temperature was such that players from both sides took the opportunity to take on some cold water while the substitutions were being made. There was a narrow escape for Glossop when a free kick taken by Kerr was headed onto the underside of the bar by Chow with Cooper struggling to push the ball away from goal. Chris Moore then broke clear on the right and forced Cooper to push the ball wide of the near post and as Whitley kept up the pressure, Ryan headed the ball from Kerr’s corner on to Chow who in turn sent a header over the bar. Fawcett was making life difficult for the Glossop defenders with his pace down the left while Phil Bell’s physical presence was unsettling the Derbyshire side.
With 17 minutes remaining, Chow was replaced by Paul Robinson and left the field to a huge ovation from the Whitley fans. Leon Ryan almost repeated his crucial goal at Lowestoft but this time he headed over the bar. There were so many near misses but Whitley could not find the net for the goal that would have sealed the game. Instead, having survived the onslaught Glossop pushed forward for the last ten minutes in a last ditch attempt to get back in the game. Hodges fired a shot in from the left but the ball landed on the roof of the net then a minute later, in a crowded goalmouth Burke pushed the ball away from Hodges’ left wing corner. Whitley were being pushed back but the entire defence of Taylor, Coulson Burke and Picton repelled everything that Glossop could throw at them. Damon Robson worked tirelessly in front of the back four and although there were a few nervous moments for Whitley, they held firm.
With time running out, Chris Moore’s counter attack set up Paul Robinson whose shot landed on the roof of the Glossop net. Four minutes of added time saw Whitley cope effectively with Glossop’s last ditch efforts to get back in the game and when the final whistle was blown, the celebrations could begin.
Lee Kerr was named man of the match by the sponsors Carlsberg although in truth, the honour could have gone to any one of a number of Whitley players.
The moment when David Coulson was presented with the FA Vase in front of the Royal Box was one that will live long in the memories of the thousands of Whitley fans who were basking in the warm Wembley sunshine.
For manager Ian Chandler and his assistant Steve Cuggy, who were members of the 2002 Vase winning side, this was a particularly rewarding moment, with Whitley becoming the first north east team to play – and win – at the magnificent new Wembley stadium.
WHITLEY BAY; Burke, Taylor, Picton, McFarlane(Fawcett 59mins), Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Robson, Kerr, Chow(Robinson 73mins), Johnston(Bell 59mins)