Saturday 8th September
In a dramatic climax to a gripping cup tie, Whitley scored an 89th minute winner to produce one of the upsets of the round as they knocked Evo-Stik Premier Division side Whitby Town out of the FA Cup in the First Qualifying Round. The Yorkshire club, ranked two divisions above Whitley in the football pyramid, came to Hillheads in excellent form and as firm favourites but the bumper crowd of 680 fans were treated to an epic cup tie in which it was the battling underdogs who emerged victorious.
In a fairly even opening quarter hour, Bay skipper Peter Glen-Ravenhill had a 12th minute free kick pushed wide by on-loan keeper Adam McHugh before Whitby’s dangerous striker Junior Mondal drove a shot across goal and beyond the far post. A Whitley attack was cut short by a poor challenge on Luke Salmon by Sukar, which resulted in a caution for the Whitby man. Tom Flynn was forced into action to push a goalbound effort from Mondal wide, then shortly afterwards, Ibby Hassan made a vital clearance with his feet to deny Town captain Dale Hopson. Jack Cooper made a good run down the wing before crossing into the box but defender Daniel McWilliams headed the ball behind for a corner. A good ball into the Whitley box by Hopson was gathered by Flynn just ahead of Mondal as the visitors began to demonstrate their superior status, and with 35 minutes played, Flynn needed to be alert to save a close range effort from Weledji. While Whitby were creating the better opportunities, chances were coming at both ends and with no score at the interval Whitley were still very much in the tie.
Straight from the restart, Jack Foalle got an attempt on target but the effort was saved. Three minutes later Ibby Hassan was cautioned for hand ball just outside the home 18 yard box but the resultant free kick was dealt with confidently by the Bay defence. A few minutes later Foalle had another effort blocked as both sides stepped up the pressure in search of the vital breakthrough. Dan Taggart almost broke clear after a good ball from Salmon but the strong Whitby defence quickly closed him down. Just past the hour Olly Martin shot wide before Bay appeals for a penalty were waved away after the ball appeared to strike a defender’s arm. Back at the other end, Mondal looked to be clear on goal until Cooper won the ball with a crucial and well timed tackle.
In the 68th minute, a neat ball from Glen-Ravenhill reached Taggart but the striker’s shot was blocked. Pressure from Whitby led to a free kick which threatened the Bay goal but disciplined defending proved crucial as Hassan headed clear.
A key moment in the game came with 75 minutes on the clock when Olly Martin was deemed to have tripped Mondal just inside the box and referee Samuel Ross pointed to the spot and cautioned the Bay youngster. Hopson confidently stepped forward to take the penalty but he was denied by Flynn who made a tremendous diving save, pushing the ball away with strong hands. Moments later, frustration seemed to get the better of Sukar who received a second booking and a consequent red card.
These two incidents going in their favour boosted Whitley, and urged on by their fans they attacked with increased vigour. Callum Anderson sent a glancing header from Cooper’s cross narrowly wide then with five minutes remaining, Glen-Ravenhill played a corner short to substitute Lewis Walton, whose cross was headed wide by fellow sub Stephen Ramsey. Whitby were coming under increasing pressure and they conceded a free kick 20 yards out when Foalle was fouled, but the ball was cleared. It was looking increasingly like a replay would be required but then in the 89th minute, Glen-Ravenhill made a foraging run down the left and on this occasion managed to get behind the Whitby defence before delivering a perfect cross to the edge of the six yard box where Foalle came in and headed powerfully past McHugh to spark scenes of jubilation both on and off the pitch. There was barely time for Whitby to recover but they did create one anxious moment for Bay fans when they forced a corner in stoppage time but the ball was played too deep and it was cleared to safety. Foalle took the ball towards the Whitby corner flag to use up vital seconds and the final whistle soon followed, leaving the Whitley players to celebrate a famous victory with their fans. Apart from a place in the next round and the prestige of defeating a higher ranked club, the 1-0 victory earned Whitley a hugely valuable £6000 in prize money. It also extended their winning run to five games, something they last achieved three years ago.
Goalkeeper Tom Flynn was deservedly named h2o Bathrooms man of the match, not only for his penalty save, but also for some excellent saves earlier in the game that kept Whitley in the tie.
WHITLEY BAY: Flynn, A Redford (Walton 69mins), Cooper, Anderson, Hassan, Caines, Martin, Glen-Ravenhill, Taggart(Ramsey 78mins), Foalle, Salmon
Substitutes not used: Carr, Brannen, R Redford, Taylor, Powell
Cautions: Hassan, Martin
Referee: Samuel Ross
Attendance: 680