Bay manager Mick Mulhern heaped praise on his team after watching them earn a point from an exciting 3-3 draw at league leaders Consett.
“I’m delighted with a point especially at somewhere like here. They’re flying, top of the league, top goalscorers in the league and obviously cause teams problems. But homework was done through the week, we had an idea how they’d play which was a great help. It was going to be one of two ways and we covered both in Thursday’s session so as soon as I’d seen the team sheet I had a good idea what they were going to do so it was covered and there were no surprises, although it s fair to say we don’t play against that system every week. For the first ten minutes they made life difficult for us until we settled down. Those first ten minutes were probably crucial and we got through that, we got into the game and we’ve done very well with our defending. Obviously, as I said, I’m delighted to get a point and if I’m honest we could have won that game in the second half. We had more chances than they did. Olly’s had a couple, Luke had one and Ryan had one saved so we’ve had decent chances. Yes Andy’s made a couple as well but the least we deserved was a point.
Given the background to the game with the tragic death of former Bay favourite Robbie Livermore, it was hugely appropriate that one of Robbie’s team mates, Craig McFarlane should get the opening goal, a fact that Mulhern was quick to acknowledge “I could see Craig’s reaction straight away and I knew what it was for. I didn’t know Robbie but I do know people who knew him well and I know he was friends with Chowy and Sparky and I’ve seen lots of messages on twitter and Facebook. Proper respect was paid before the game (the one minute silence) and it was good that somebody who’s played with him got a goal and also it was great that Whitley got a result as well. It was a massive way of paying our respects to him.”
Following disappointing results over the previous two months, the manager was well aware that many fans feared Whitley might not pick up any points from a tough run of games in January. “I think most people probably wrote us off over January (when they saw the fixture list) maybe because we’ve been stop start but I’ve worked hard with the group to make sure we were organised with the preparation in the sessions that we do through the week. I try and give them as much information as possible and to be fair the lads’ response has been outstanding. We look now as if we’re not going to get taken apart, and that Seaham game is a distant bad memory. We’re starting to become more of a threat over recent weeks. We’ve scored goals against top sides and I think at the moment the highlight is scoring three goals a couple of weeks back against a team who’d never conceded three goals in the league all season. Dunston had only conceded 13 goals, and we put three past them. And that’s been the message ever since – if we can bruise a top team like that why can’t we do it to others? We had a go last week but we ran out of time but today we stuck at it, went in at half time satisfied that it was 1-1 when they were the better side in the first half which basically was because we were giving the ball back and they were tidy with the ball. But when we tightened up we caused them problems and I thought second half we were much better, we kept the ball better and we created chances and the point was the least we deserved.”
Viewing conditions for the fans became very difficult in the thickening fog but the manager had no concerns that the visibility was affecting the players. “They were fine, they’re on the pitch and don’t have to view from one side to the other like we do. They can see what’s going on, they’re fine and I’m sure the back four could see far enough up to see what’s happening. It wasn’t a problem and if we’d lost the game and I’d used that as an excuse it would have been clutching at straws really.
“It’s pleasing to get a point off a team that’s flying and have every chance of going up, but I’d looked at their ‘goals against’ record and they’ve got the worst goals against record of those around them and that was the message, that we can go after them and press them and cause problems and get goals. So I guess that’s been shown to be true because we’ve got three and could have had a couple more – though to be fair they could have done as well! I’m delighted that we can go after the top teams and cause them problems, so long may it continue because they don’t get any easier, we’ve got some very tough opponents coming up in the next few games so there’s no respite.
“We’re becoming a better team over the last few weeks, we’re doing ok as a team. Consistent team selection helps, we don’t want wholesale changes and that includes substitutions. If the game’s close I won’t just throw people on because it could open the game up while the player’s settling in. It was close today so the change I made was because of an injury. I’m delighted with everybody they’ve put in a great shift again.”