ASHINGTON 1 WHITLEY BAY 2
Monday 26th December
By Junior Reporter Harry Salkeld
A fantastic second-half performance earned the Bay 3 crucial points over Ashington, on a memorable Boxing Day for everyone in their blue and white woolly hats.
A minutes’ applause was held around the stadium before kick-off in memory of lifelong Ashington fan Neil Thomas, who passed away recently. The two captains met in the centre circle for the coin flip with the referee and Ashington decided to switch sides.
Whitley were attacking into the blowing wind and beaming sunshine in the first half.
Elliot Day and Luke Porritt were having joy down the left hand-side at the beginning of the match. Porritt swung in a great delivery at the back post which Lewis Orrell took under his control but he was tackled before he could pull the trigger.
Ashington then showed how good they can be on the counterattack when Darren Lough played a through ball into Lee Mason who ran through one on one with Dan Lister. Mason’s shot was saved by a strong Dan Lister left hand to keep the score-line level at 0-0.
The opening goal came shortly afterwards, Dean Briggs played a pass into Lee Mason who was able to tuck the ball into the bottom right-corner to break the deadlock.
Whitley were starting to create more clear-cut chances after the opponents first goal, Elliot Day had two shots denied by Kyle Hayes.
The highlight of the first half for the Bay supporters was when Ben Richardson drove forward with the ball and the referee in front of him fell over into the mud. As enjoyable and funny the moment was, I was still hoping and praying that the late Christmas present of a Bay win on Boxing Day was still achievable.
Ashington won a corner in the closing minutes of the first half which was played short to Dean Briggs who drove into the Bay penalty box. He was tripped by Bailey Geliher and the referee awarded a penalty to the hosts. Up stepped their captain, Ben Harmison, who blazed his penalty over the bar and out the stadium.
Nick’s half time talk clearly paid immediate dividends as Whitley got on level terms when Ardelean passed the ball to Lewis Orrell who calmly put the ball into the back of the net. It was fantastic footwork from Ardelean to get passed the defender to set up Orrell for an easy finish.
The second goal looked like it was coming for the Bay as their passing had improved dramatically since the whistle had been blow for the second half.
The Bay took the lead on the 55th minute mark when Bailey Geliher’s cross bamboozled the goalkeeper, Kyle Hayes, floating over his head as he struggled to gauge the trajectory. The ball then landed to the feet of Porritt where all he had to do was put the ball comfortably into the back of the net with a tap in. It was great positioning from Porritt to be at the right place at the right time.
The lead nearly grew for the Bay when a scramble in the six-yard box saw Ardelean’s shot hit the post and then Orrell’s shot was denied by the keeper’s feet.
The Bay’s first substitution came in the 68th minute when Bailey Geliher came off for Josh Gilchrist and it was followed by another one in the 74th minute when the injured Lewis Orrell came off for Jackson Ward.
Pressure was being put on the Bay defence as Ashington were looking hungry for the equaliser. Benjamin Sampson effort from the edge of the penalty area just went wide of the post.
Ashington made a series of attacking substitutions in an effort to find a goal to win them a point in the last ten minutes of normal time.
In the 83rd minute Ardelean came off for Malcolm Morien. Ashington had most of the ball towards the end of the game but the Bay defence proved too strong for them and Dan Lister wasn’t challenged.
Ben Richardson, who had put in a fantastic shift and performance in the heart of the midfield, came off for Stephen Turnbull in the third minute of added time.
The final whistle was greeted with a round of applause and happy faces from the Bay fans that had made the journey.
The win for the Bay puts them four points ahead of Ashington and they have played the same number of games.
The perfect late Christmas present had been delivered by Nick Gray and his players on Boxing Day and Newton Aycliffe have delivered another one in the form of beating Bishop Auckland 3-2 at the time of writing.
The Bay are now five points behind league leaders Bishop Auckland with three games in hand.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Hutchinson, Lowery, Hall, Day, Orrell(Ward 74mins), Richardson(Turnbull 90+4mins), Neary, Porritt, Geliher(Gilchrist 68mins), Ardelean(Morien 83mins)
Referee: Kieran Graham
Assistant Referees: Connor Kitson and Michael Moore
Photo by Stephen Tyley