Tuesday 28th January
This was a classic cup tie that will live long in the memory of those who braved the bitter cold of a January night in North West Durham. The game was packed with action from start to finish; Consett building a seemingly impregnable lead before Whitley staged a dramatic comeback with two goals in the last two minutes, sending the tie to a penalty shoot out which was only settled with the 20th spot kick.
Sadly for Whitley, the roller coaster ride ended in disappointment but the passion and determination showed by the players helped to erase the memory of Saturday’s poor showing at Northallerton.
The two sides went into the game in vastly different form, Consett unbeaten in 20 games prior to their penalty shoot out defeat in the Durham Challenge Cup last week, while Whitley had lost their last six games.
Both sides were missing players who were cup tied or injured but a big boost for Whitley was the return from injury of club captain Craig McFarlane who was starting his first game in over two months. Luke Salmon and Tom Bexton were also in the starting eleven for the first time in several weeks.
Whitley opted to play with the strong wind in their favour during the first half and with the versatile McFarlane operating as striker. The first attempt on goal came in the second minute when Marcus Giles saw a shot comfortably saved by Kyle Hayes, the keeper who was a member of Whitley’s 2011 Vase winning squad. Four minutes later Consett were almost through on goal but McAloon was caught offside. With ten minutes played, a poor challenge by Nick Allen sent Giles tumbling on the edge of the Consett box and had Bay fans shouting for a red card but the ex-Bay defender escaped with a caution. McFarlane’s free kick brought a fine diving save from Hayes, who pushed the ball wide of the far post.
When play switched to the other end, Jake Orrell, brother of Bay’s Lewis, produced a powerful header which brought a great save from Dan Lister.
The action continued with Salmon making a foraging run down the wing and winning a corner but play then quickly swung back upfield and Holden played the ball across the 18 yard box where the vastly experienced Michael Mackay slotted home a low shot beyond the reach of the diving Lister.
Attempting to capitalise on the strong wind, Salmon tried a speculative shot from just beyond the half way line but the ball drifted wide of goal. Whitley had a fortunate escape in the 22nd minute when a shot from McAloon hit the frame of the goal after slick build up play by the hosts. The Bay’s luck ran out just 60 seconds later when Lister could only push out a powerful cross from the right and the ball fell kindly for Mackay who slotted home his second goal of the game.
Whitley responded positively and twice in the space of three minutes, McFarlane was almost clear on goal but on both occasions his attempts were blocked by Hayes with two important saves.
The Steelmen were looking full of confidence and almost added a third goal in the 34th minute but Lister thwarted Mackay after an attempt on goal had taken a deflection. As it turned out, they did not have to wait long for another goal, which came in the 38th minute when Luke Taylor attempted to clear McAloon’s threatening cross from the left but unluckily only succeeded in slicing the ball over Lister and into his own net.
Whitley’s prospects were looking extremely bleak at this stage but they received a crucial boost less than three minutes later when James Martin took advantage of the strong wind and from around 30 yards struck a superb shot that flew into the top corner of the net giving Hayes no chance. The goal provided a life line for Whitley but going in 3-1 down and against the wind in the second half, the odds were stacked against them.
When play resumed, there was a fairly even spell of play with few chances at either end. Ten minutes into the half, Whitley brought on Andre Bennett, signed just hours earlier and assisted by his presence in midfield, they were beginning to control the pacy Consett side and restricting their attacking play. In the 58th minute, a good Bay move ended with Giles slotting the ball home but the goal was ruled out for offside. Down at the other end, Lister made a fingertip save to push a long range shot over the bar. Salmon headed over the bar after a good move by Whitley, who were now creating the better chances. Consett’s best efforts were shots from distance that failed to trouble an alert Lister.
With seven minutes remaining, Whitley had a great chance to pull a goal back when Giles was played clear but Hayes made an excellent block. The former Bay keeper appeared to have ended any lingering hopes of a comeback by Whitley but in the 89th minute, there was an enormous scramble in the Consett goalmouth during which Martin struck the ball against a post before it rebounded and eventually Luke Salmon smashed it into the net from close range. Whitley’s never-say-die attitude had brought some reward and they pushed forward immediately after winning the ball from the restart. In an unbelievable climax to the game, Bennett struck the ball through the Consett defence from the edge of the box and it flew past the helpless Hayes and into the net for a dramatic 90th minute equaliser. Stoppage time failed to bring a winner for either side so the tie went to penalties.
Consett took the first spot kick and scored, Bennett stepped up to score with Whitley’s first kick though Hayes just about got his fingertips to the ball. Another clinical kick by the hosts was followed by a fine shot from Tom Bexton. McAloon then fired Consett’s third penalty over the bar before Luke Salmon converted well to put Whitley 3-2 head. Consett scored their next two with James Martin making no mistake with his kick, leaving Whitley needing to score their fifth kick to win the contest. Perhaps surprisingly it was keeper Dan Lister who volunteered to take the penalty but he blazed his attempt high over the bar.
The tension grew as the shoot out now went to sudden death and adding to the pressure on the players, the ball was blown off the spot several times by the strong wind. Despite the conditions, the quality of the spot kicks was top class as players held their nerve and the next nine penalties were all converted, Proctor, Taylor, Martindale and Giles all successful for Whitley but with the 20th kick of the tie, Scott Lowery suffered the agony of seeing his penalty saved by Hayes and so Consett won the contest 9-8.
Both sides had chances to win the tie in the 90 minutes, Consett during the first half that they largely dominated, and Whitley in the second half, when they fought back tremendously well. Beyond the obvious disappointment of the final outcome, Whitley can take plenty of positives from the game, with a number of players returning to the side and staking strong claims to retain their places when they play their next game at home to Thornaby a week on Saturday.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Bexton, Martin, Olsen(Bennett 55mins), Taylor, Lowery, Smith(Proctor 64mins) Orrell, McFarlane(Martindale 76mins), Giles, Salmon
Substitutes not used: Davison, Anderson
Cautions: None
Referee: James Bancroft
Attendance: 149