Northern League Cup Group Stage
Tuesday 10th September
For the second time in a week, luck was very much against Whitley as they suffered a narrow defeat despite creating by far the greater number of chances, especially in the second half.
Just a month after Hebburn inflicted a crushing 7-1 defeat at Hillheads in the FA Cup, this was a closely contested cup tie between two skilful and well matched sides.
Whitley handed debuts to their two latest signings and both Craig Spooner and Scott Lowery emerged with flying colours.
The opening ten minutes saw both sides passing the ball around accurately with the game being played at a rapid pace but the first real chance did not arrive until the 11th minute when Spooner tested Andy Jennison but the ex-Bay keeper parried his shot away from goal. Six minutes later an attempt by Mark Robinson was comfortably saved before Luke Sullivan produced Hebburn’s first attempt on target but Hubery was not seriously troubled.
In the 27th minute, Lowery made an excellent run into the box before going down under pressure from a defender but strong appeals for a penalty were turned down. The home side came more into the game as the half progressed but a well disciplined Bay defence were restricting their opportunities on goal. A foul by Suddick brought a reaction from Lowery and referee David Pill spoke at length to both players before allowing play to resume.
Accurate passing down their right side created an opportunity for Hebburn in the 37th minute and when Sullivan received the ball just inside the box, he turned and rifled an unstoppable shot beyond Hubery and high into the net.
Whitley responded and three minutes later, an attack by Luke Salmon was cut short by a cynical challenge from Louis Storey which earned the Hebburn captain a caution. The resultant free kick from Lee Kerr was well saved low down by Jennison. On the stroke of half time, Whitley very nearly equalised when Craig McFarlane produced a tremendous 25 yard shot from out on the left. The ball went over Jennison, and although the keeper got fingertips to the ball, it crashed off the bar and back into play. The hosts held a slender 1-0 lead at the interval but that did not last long into the second half as Whitley stormed out of the blocks when play resumed. Within two minutes, Craig McFarlane was unfortunate to see his shot from the right hit the inside of the far post before rebounding to safety. Lowery then got in a shot on target but less than 60 seconds later, another Bay attack saw Connor Smith on the right send in a perfect cross to the back post where Salmon slotted the ball home for what was a richly deserved equaliser.
Unfortunately from a Bay perspective, Hebburn regained the lead just four minutes later when Darren Lough crossed from the left and Olly Martin, who left Whitley in the summer to join the Hornets, headed the ball home.
A few minutes later, a high challenge by Salmon on Suddick earned Whitley’s goalscorer a yellow card. The sides were exchanging attempts on goal as play quickly switched from end to end in what was proving to be an enthralling cup tie. An effort from Dibb-Fuller took a deflection and hit the outside of the post but in the 69th minute, a right wing Whitley corner almost brought a second equaliser when Spooner met the ball perfectly but his powerful header crashed off the post with Jennison beaten. That was Spooner’s final action of the game before being substituted but he had done enough to show that he will be a real asset. A period of sustained Bay pressure then stretched the home defence to the limit. Firstly, Salmon broke through on the left but Jennison managed to deflect his shot just beyond the post. Lee Kerr, who had been battling away winning balls in midfield, sent over a corner which caused confusion in the Hebburn goalmouth but after a huge scramble, the ball was eventually cleared.
Whitley continued to pepper the home goal with shots from Salmon, Robinson, Bexton and McFarlane but all were repelled by a rearguard that was coming under stern pressure.
Connor Smith and then substitute Nathan Stephenson both went close, but the Hornets were still a threat on the break and Suddick was not far off target as they sought to put the game beyond Whitley.
Four minutes from time, Bay fans thought they had got an equaliser when Lee Kerr glanced home a cross from Salmon but the goal was ruled out for offside. Graham and Stephenson had late attempts but despite getting twice as many shots on target as Hebburn, Whitley could not get the goal that would have earned them a point. They now face three games against Second Division opponents and if they can earn victories in these ties, they will still comfortably qualify for the later stages of the competition.
WHITLEY BAY: Hubery, Bexton, Salmon, Kerr, Anderson, Graham, Lowery(Hird 78mins) Spooner(Orrell 70mins) Smith, Robinson, McFarlane(Stephenson 78mins)
Substitutes not used: Lister, Taylor
Caution: Salmon
Referee: David Pill
Attendance: 215