FA VASE FINAL
COALVILLE TOWN 2 WHITLEY BAY 3
Whitley resisted the challenge of a very strong Coalville Town side to retain the FA Vase and rewrite the history books on a record breaking day at Wembley.
Winning a national competition at the home of football is something that most players and supporters can only dream of but to do so three years in a row is a quite momentous achievement.
In years to come, fans will look back on Sunday 8th May 2011 as the day that Ian Chandler’s Whitley Bay side became the most successful team in the history of the FA Vase, completing a hat trick of wins at the new Wembley stadium.
Unlike their previous two finals against Glossop and Wroxham, this was a game when Whitley were made to battle all the way by an excellent Coalville Town side who gave Whitley their toughest test yet in what is a now a 26 game unbeaten run in the competition.
Team selection was a discussion point for Bay fans ahead of the game, in particular which defenders and midfielders would be included in the starting line up. Steve Gibson, who looked sure to miss the game after suffering a hamstring injury less than two weeks ago, passed a fitness test leaving Ian Chandler and his management team with the rare luxury of a fully fit squad but the difficult task of deciding which of his 17 experienced players would have to be left out of the 16 man squad. Chris Fawcett was the unlucky one who had to be content with watching from the sidelines, as he did last year after suffering an injury the previous day. Terry Burke was selected in goal ahead of Kyle Hayes, with experience being chosen ahead of youth.
With the preliminaries completed, the game got under way in glorious sunshine and for long periods of a pulsating game, the Midland Alliance champions held the upper hand and Burke was by far the busier of the goalkeepers.
With their greater experience of the big occasion, Whitley might have been expected to settle the quicker of the sides but Coalville showed no nerves and were immediately on the attack with Paul Robinson making a vital clearance from one of a series of corners before Burke pushed a cross from defender Cameron Stuart over the bar. Whitley were under almost constant pressure with the Midlands side mounting attack after attack. After 16 minutes, a Whitley free kick gave them some relief but Darren Timmons was beaten to the ball by keeper Sean Bowles and play quickly returned to the other end.
Midway through the half Whitley came more into the game but efforts by Ormston and Kerr were both off target then Craig McFarlane cut in from the right but fired over the bar. However, McFarlane was more successful soon after with 28 minutes played, as he received the ball from Kerr, raced away down the right outpacing Stuart and crossed low into the six yard box where the unmarked Paul Chow gleefully fired home from about five yards. The goal came against the run of play but highlighted the predator instinct in the man who had achieved the first record of the day, scoring in every round that Whitley had played in this year’s competition.
The goal briefly silenced the Coalville fans but they were lifted three minutes later when their side again threatened only for Callum Anderson to make a vital block. Whitley had a gilt edged chance to increase their lead when Kerr fired just beyond the far post with only Bowles to beat.
Coalville fans thought their side had drawn level when Murdock had the ball in the net but it had curled out of play as it was crossed from the wing and the celebrations at the other end were cut short.
Goodby then sent a header just beyond Burke’s far post as Coalville battled for an equaliser. Whitley were holding on determinedly and it looked as if luck was on their side when Moore struck the inside of the post and the ball rebounded back into the arms of the grateful Burke. Two minutes before the break, Carney hit a shot just over the bar then right on half time, Paul Chow had a chance to increase Whitley’s lead, but when Robinson played the ball over the Coalville defence, Chow lobbed the onrushing keeper Bowles but the ball also cleared the bar.
Unlucky to be behind at the interval, the Leicestershire side began the second half strongly, as they played towards their own fans. Their pressure finally brought reward after 58 minutes when Stuart’s cross from the left cleared Timmons and Williams, and Moore’s header proved too powerful for Burke, who despite getting a hand to the ball could not keep it out.
Whitley showed the quality of champions as they immediately responded and they were back in front just three minutes later. Paul Robinson showed superb skill on the right, turning Stuart inside out before crossing to Kerr who sent a perfectly weighted glancing header across the keeper and into the far corner of the net. This meant that like Chow, Kerr had scored in each of Whitley’s three Wembley appearances, another record breaking achievement.
The game was swinging quickly from end to end and only a few minutes later another Coalville shot crashed off the post. Whitley made a double substitution with Smith and Coulson, who was rather surprisingly omitted from the starting eleven, replacing Pounder and Williams. This gave more height at the back for Whitley as they looked to stem the flow from the Midlanders. Murdock’s powerful shot from 20 yards brought an equally outstanding save from Burke, who pushed the ball over the bar and was fully justifying his selection in goal ahead of Kyle Hayes.
Goalmouth action was coming at both ends in what was a gripping game for the committed fans and thoroughly entertaining for the neutrals in the crowd of just under 9,000.
Brian Smith’s header from Robson’s corner was deflected behind for another flag kick as Whitley searched for a third goal but the threat from Coalville did not diminish and a mazy run from Carney had the Town fans roaring but his final effort was off target. Burke made another great save to keep out a shot from Murdock but with ten minutes left, he was beaten when Carney’s cross from the right was headed home by Adam Goodby to set up a dramatic and tense last ten minutes.
Many sides would have wilted under the pressure of conceding at this stage but not Whitley. Late winners have been the order of the day especially this season as Herne Bay and Poole Town will testify. Robinson was wide with an attempt for Whitley and then Coalville also had a shot that was off target but with just four minutes remaining, and extra time beckoning, Craig McFarlane, whose work rate all afternoon was outstanding, mounted another surging run down the left wing and as he cut in he was tripped by Ashley Brown just a few yards outside the penalty area. Memories of his superb winning goal against Poole flooded back as Lee Kerr stepped up to take the free kick, but Coalville were more organised in their defence with a man on both posts. However, this was still not good enough as Kerr played the ball to the centre of the goal where Chow, in front of the keeper, deflected the ball onto the underside of the bar and then bundled it into the net to scenes of delight from the Bay fans who were bathed in sunshine at the same end of the ground.
There was still time for a few tense moments as Coalville made two late changes in a bid to rescue the game. Burke once again made a fine save to keep Whitley ahead and then McFarlane pulled a hamstring and was helped from the field in obvious pain. Steve Gibson came on for the closing stages, which included four minutes of stoppage time. Whitley showed all their experience as they resisted everything that Coalville could throw at them and despite a few anxious moments, succeeding in playing out the remainder of the game with their fans roaring them on.
The final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation on and off the field and soon afterwards, Damon Robson led his troops up the steps to claim the FA Vase for a record breaking fourth time and the third in succession.
Terry Burke was deservedly named Man of the Match for an outstanding display which included some stunning saves, pushing the ball wide of goal, over the bar and punching clear when under pressure. During the post match interviews, he also announced his retirement at the age of 39 after playing a total of 416 games over 19 years, a record for a Bay keeper. He played in all three Wembley finals and will go down in the records as possibly Whitley’s greatest keeper of all time.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, McFarlane(Gibson 89mins), Pounder( Smith 68mins),Anderson, Timmons, Williams(Coulson 68mins), Ormston, Robson, Kerr, Chow, Robinson.
Substitutes not used: Hayes, Rowe
Referee: Scott Mathieson (Cheshire)