Saturday 13th April
Whitley’s season ended in disappointing style as they slipped to a third consecutive defeat and dropped one place in the table to finish in 13th position. Nevertheless, this represents an improvement of three places since Nathan Haslam took over as manager last month.
Injury and illness left Whitley without three key players, experienced defenders Craig McFarlane and Callum Anderson, together with Olly Martin who had been in with a chance of finishing the season as top goal scorer.
Before kick off, there was a presentation to Craig McFarlane to mark his 350 appearances for the club, three of which were at Wembley as a the FA Vase winner.
Playing into a blustery wind, Whitley’s first chance came in the eighth minute when Andrei Ardelean connected with a cross from the left but his shot was blocked inside the six yard box. Moments later, Shildon capitalised on slack marking when a long ball downfield reached Billy Greulich-Smith in space on the left side of midfield. He took the ball forward to the edge of the box before curling a great shot beyond the reach of Dan Lister into the top corner of the net.
Struggling to string passes together in the conditions, it took Whitley a further ten minutes to test the visitors. Again it was Ardelean who went close, this time from a high ball into the box from the right which he poked straight into the arms of keeper Newbrook.
There were few chances at either end until shortly before the interval when captain on the day Luke Salmon cut in from the left along the by-line and his cross clipped the outside of the post before being cleared. It appeared that there would be just the one goal separating the sides at the break but Whitley conceded a crucial second deep into stoppage time. Shildon won a corner on the left and when the ball was played in, it was caught in the wind and with players on both sides failing to make proper contact, it struck Greulich-Smith and somewhat fortuitously found its way into the net past a bemused Bay defence. That was the final action of the half and it left Whitley with a difficult task, even with the wind at their backs in the second period.
Greulich-Smith was proving a real threat and he almost completed a hat trick six minutes after the restart but Lister kept his effort out. One minute later, Lewis Walton went close for Whitley but his shot across goal drifted a foot wide of the upright.
Any hopes of a Bay recovery were effectively ended in the 55th minute and again it was the tall Greulich-Smith at the centre of the action, bringing a fine diving save from Lister after being played clear on the right of the penalty area. Unfortunately for the young keeper, he could only push the ball into the path of Ben Trotter who had the simple task of slotting it home from five yards.
Strong and well organised defending by the visitors was denying Whitley clear chances on goal but in the final stages they did come more into the game and with 15 minutes remaining substitute Stephen Ramsey had a goal bound shot blocked. Two minutes later, the Railwaymen were deceived by a right wing corner from Salmon and the ball curled just inside the near post before being pushed back out. The goal came too late to affect the outcome but it did have the significance of putting Salmon level with Ardelean as joint top scorer.
The game suddenly flared up with less than two minutes remaining when Kieran Brannen showed his frustration after a decision went against him and he kicked out at an opponent. Inevitably it resulted in a red card and in the aftermath of the incident, both Stephen Ramsey and Shildon keeper Newbrook were cautioned. The incident was out of character with the game and the final whistle was not long delayed.
Shildon were deserved winners and the result ensured that they finished the season in sixth position.
The Bay players and management stayed on the pitch after the game to show their appreciation to the fans for their excellent support and loyalty throughout the season. The attendance of 377 was the second highest of the day and sees Whitley once again rank among the best supported clubs in the league.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Christensen, Walton, Redford, Hassan, Taylor, Brannen, D Wright, Ardelean, J Wright(Ramsey 66mins), Salmon
Substitutes not used: Glen-Ravenhill, Caines, Cooper, Suddick
Referee: David Pill
Sent off: Brannen, Caution: Ramsey.
Attendance: 377