ASHINGTON 1 WHITLEY BAY 2
Tuesday 20th August
Whitley came out on top after an entertaining and action packed derby game at Woodhorn Lane. Nathan Haslam made three changes to the side that started Saturday’s game against Ryhope CW, Tom Bexton made his full debut while Luke Salmon and James Martin returned after recovering from injury.
Whitley started the game in positive fashion with most of the play in the Ashington half. In the fourth minute, James Proctor made a good run down the right wing but his cross into the goalmouth was cut out. Seven minutes later Lewis Orrell went down in the box but penalty appeals were ignored by the officials. Whitley were well on top at this stage and moments later, Brad Hird had the ball in the Ashington net only for the goal to be ruled out by a marginal offside decision.
Another Bay attack just past the quarter hour saw Proctor played clear on goal but a poor touch played the ball into the hands of keeper Dan Staples.
Ashington’s first attempt on goal came in the 18th minute with Karl Ross trying his luck from distance but the midfielder who had a short spell at Hillheads last season, saw his attempt drift wide.
The Colliers were beginning to come more into the game and in the 23rd minute, Damien Stevens burst into the box and when Lister raced off his line attempting to thwart the striker, Stevens tumbled to the ground and referee Paul Cooper awarded a penalty and also booked the Bay keeper. However, Lister, who celebrates his 20th birthday this week, redeemed himself as he dived superbly to push away Callum Johnston’s spot kick.
Play immediately switched to the other end where Craig McFarlane played in James Proctor who slotted the ball under keeper Dan Staples and into the net to give Whitley the lead. However Whitley’s injury jinx struck again as in scoring the goal, Proctor pulled a hamstring and was unable to continue, the third player in as many games to suffer a nasty injury during the first half.
Deservedly ahead, Whitley continued to push forward and four minutes later, Brad Hird was only denied by a fine save from Staples, who pushed the shot wide. After Lancaster was cautioned for a poor challenge on McFarlane, Nathan Stephenson’s fine shot into the corner of the net proved to be in vain when the assistant raised his flag for offside. Another chance came four minutes before the break when Hird’s shot looked to be heading for the corner of the net but Staples got a toe to the ball to deflect it just beyond the post. Just before the interval, Johnston’s free kick almost produced an equaliser as his 20 yard shot crashed off the bar.
Had Whitley been able to capitalise on their chances, the contest could have been all over by half time, but with just a slender one goal lead, there was still everything to play for.
The second half almost began in perfect fashion for Whitley as McFarlane’s cross from the right was put only inches wide of his own goal by Colliers’ skipper Curtis Coppen.
Having been pinned back in their own half during much of the first 45 minutes, the hosts came more into the game but neat approach work produced little end result as they failed to penetrate the Bay rearguard.
When Whitley broke forward just past the hour mark, Craig McFarlane was about to break clear on goal but went down. Bewilderingly, the referee deemed that the Bay captain had deliberately gone to ground and cautioned him. There then followed a plethora of cards handed out, most of which were for relatively innocuous challenges by both sides.
With the hosts enjoying more possession, Whitley needed the cushion of a second goal and it duly arrived in the 72nd minute thanks to a tremendous strike from Nathan Stephenson, whose powerful shot crashed off the inside of the post and flew into the net.
If Whitley and their fans thought the game was now won, they were quickly given a reality check when three minutes later Ashington surged forward and Tom Graham handled the ball inside the box. Amid confusion, the referee awarded a penalty then consulted his assistant before adding Graham’s name to those already in his book. This time, substitute Kyle Downey, another of the ex-Bay contingent in the Ashington side, took the penalty and sent Lister the wrong way to reduce the arrears and set up a tense finale.
Five minutes from time, Ashington captain Curtis Coppen was sin-binned for showing dissent, leaving the hosts a man short as Whitley saw out the remainder of the game to claim a deserved but hard fought victory.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Bexton, Salmon, Bott, Anderson, Graham, Proctor(Stephenson 24mins, Taylor 90mins)), Orrell, Hird(Colquhoun 83mins) McFarlane, Martin
Substitutes not used: Brannen, Kerr
Cautions: Lister, Graham, Hird, McFarlane, Martin, Stephenson
Referee: Paul Cooper