CARLISLE CITY 2 WHITLEY BAY 3
Tuesday 6th February
Report by Julian Tyley
A tremendous team performance by Whitley earned them all three points in an action packed thriller in Carlisle. The fans who made the long midweek trip to Cumbria witnessed a game that had just about everything including five goals and numerous controversial decisions, but in the end a great fightback by Whitley brought them a deserved victory over a side whose only previous home defeat in the league was way back in September.
Injury and unavailability meant that Liam McIvor was forced to make three changes to the side that defeated Seaham at the weekend. Goalkeeper Fin Hodgson, a recent signing from North Shields made his debut in place of Graeme Pickering, James McGeorge replaced Cameron Brewis who picked up a calf injury early in the game on Saturday while Fin Neary made his first start replacing older brother Harvey.
Having won all five games since their defeat at Hillheads last month, Carlisle started confidently, looking the better side in the early stages. With just five minutes played, they were awarded a free kick just outside the Bay penalty area, a decision that baffled the Bay players and fans. However, the danger was averted and Whitley gradually gained a foothold in the game.
Their first attempt of the evening came in the 11th minute when Andrew Cartwright broke forward on the left and drove a shot not far over the bar. Two minutes later good work by Bailey Geliher took him past a defender and when he crossed to the edge of the box, Paddy Almond turned and fired in a shot that only just cleared the bar.
A momentary lack of concentration in the Whitley defence on the quarter hour saw Carlisle take the lead when the ball was played across goal from out on the left and Jordan Irving came in at the back post to poke it into the net, only just avoiding colliding with the upright.
Another attempt on goal by the home side three minutes later went over the bar while at the other end Geliher got in a shot but the keeper saved comfortably.
Whitley were getting into their rhythm and some excellent ball control and distribution in midfield by McGeorge and Geliher was troubling the home side who were being forced back into their own half.
On the half hour, a great move by Whitley saw McGeorge play the ball wide on the right to Lewis Suddick, whose cross was missed by keeper Simons and the ball flew just over Gilchrist who was coming in at the back of the six yard box.
Two Bay corners were defended effectively by the strong City defence while at the other end Lowery and Almond dealt with the threat posed by the home side and at the interval the game was finely poised, with the hosts narrowly ahead.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, Whitley were back on level terms when Jos Storr broke clear down the right and drilled a shot low beyond Simons. Carlisle protested that a hand ball by Whitley in the build up to the goal had been missed by the officials but their complaints went unheeded.
The equaliser spurred Whitley on and seven minutes later an attempt from McGeorge went wide of the target.
Carlisle were reduced to ten men on the hour mark when Thomas Mahone brought Neary down from behind and was sent off. It was a dangerous challenge that resulted in the Bay youngster needing lengthy treatment before he could resume.
The decision led to further frustration from the home side with Whitley looking to capitalise on their one man advantage.
Three of Whitley’s teenagers, Geliher, Neary and Storr, all of whom who had put in a great shift, were substituted with around 20 minutes remaining and it did not take long for their replacements to make their impact.
In the 75th minute, Josh Gilchrist played the ball from wide on the right to the back of the 18 yard box where substitute Jamie Holmes smashed a first time shot high into the net to put Whitley in front.
A bad tackle on Holmes less than two minutes later saw Irving booked then with 11 minutes left, Ben Richardson, another of the Bay subs, played a superb ball from midfield wide to Gilchrist, who raced down the right beyond the advancing keeper and from the tightest of angles slotted the ball just inside the far post to give Whitley a 3-1 lead. With a two goal cushion, Whitley seemed to be cruising to victory, especially when only moments after the goal, City had Atkinson sin-binned for dissent, leaving them down to nine men for the next ten minutes.
However, another bewildering decision gave the Cumbrians the opportunity to get back in the game when they were awarded a penalty for what was deemed a handball by Scott Lowery when the ball had hit the Bay skipper on the chest. Callum Birdsall duly despatched the spot kick, giving Hodgson no chance, to make a for a nervous finale.
Yet more controversy came when Atkinson was waved back on the pitch by the referee before completing his ten minutes on the sidelines. This was brought to the attention of the match official by his assistant and the player was eventually taken back off for the required period.
Whitley saw out the remainder of the game, including eight added minutes, with late substitutions, new teenage signing Harry Law getting his first taste of Northern League football and club captain Michael Hall adding further solidity to the defence for the last few minutes.
The final whistle was greeted with delight by the Whitley players and management along with the small contingent of travelling fans. It had certainly been an entertaining game and had made the long journey well worthwhile.
A fourth consecutive victory makes it Whitley’s best winning run of the season while they completed a league double over one of their main rivals for a play-off place.
With several of the missing players available again at the weekend, it gives Liam McIvor the best sort of selection headache ahead of the short trip to Newcastle Benfield.
WHITLEY BAY: Hodgson, Suddick, Cartwright, Ellison, Almond, Lowery, Storr(Wilkinson 71mins) F Neary(Richardson 72mins) Gilchrist(Law 90mins) McGeorge(Hall 90mins) Geliher(Holmes 67mins)
Cautions: Lowery, Holmes, Law
Referee: Danny Taylor