WHITLEY BAY 1 BIRTLEY TOWN 5
Tuesday 9th January
Match report by Harry Salkeld
After a fantastic result on Friday night, the Bay were back at Hillheads looking to make it two wins in the space of five days. Our opponents, Birtley Town came into the game in 5th place and only three points ahead of the Bay. Only one change was made to the starting XI that beat Carlisle. Scott Lowery made his return to the squad as he replaced Elliott Day. Lewis Suddick and Evan Wilkinson made a return to the match day squad as they both started on the bench.
After a frenetic start, Birtley had the first shot of the game as an attempt flew over the bar after thirty seconds. Birtley continued to apply pressure on the Bay backline as they played excellent passing football that was proving very hard to break down. Minutes later, Birtley broke on a promising counter- attack as a through ball was played into Scott Heslop. However, super Scott Lowery was there to put in a world-class tackle to deny any shot at Pickering.
After establishing a foothold in the game, the Bay’s first shot came when Almond went on a driving run through the centre but his shot went flying into the allotment. In the 18th minute, Birtley broke the deadlock as Stephen Hall broke downfield, dribbled round Pickering and calmly slid the ball into the back of an empty net. From a Whitley viewpoint it was the wrong Hall on the scoresheet and now it was time for a response from the Bay.
Unfortunately, the Bay didn’t get the next goal of the game as in the 22nd minute Matthew Ward bent a shot into the bottom right corner leaving Pickering scrambling. Once again, it was time for a Whitley response but this one was going to have to be special if they wanted to leave Hillheads with at least a point.
In the 25th minute, the Bay’s first good chance of the game came when Gilchrist’s left-footed effort smacked off the far post and flew away. Despite there being frustration because of the chance not being converted, you could tell that it was a matter of time before a Bay effort bulged the net. Minutes later, Jamie Holmes was booked for a challenge which the Birtley players deemed as a sending off, they made this extremely clear as they swarmed the ref and told him it should be a red.
In the 32nd minute, the Bay’s pressure paid off as a poor punch by Birtley’s number 1 fell to James McGeorge who, with ice in his veins, slotted the ball into the back of the net. Birtley’s fluid passing and quick movement seemed to have stopped as the Bay pressure was proving hard to deal with.
The last chance of the first half came when Davison’s headed attempt went straight down the throat of Alfie Gordon.
Heading into the second half there was real optimism that the Bay could reverse the losing score-line. The first chance of the second period came when Gilchrist had a shot that went wide off the near post. Minutes later and Gilchrist stepped up to take a free kick which was sent straight into the wall, the rebound however, looked like it was sailing into the bottom right corner. Unfortunately a great save from Gordon denied the comeback. In the 59th minute, James McGeorge looked like he could put the Bay on level terms but his shot was agonisingly cleared off the line by a Birtley defender.
In the 61st minute, Almond had a header that went wide off the post after a great cross was put in by Ben Richardson. Birtley were failing to show any attacking threat in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, but sadly that would all change following two controversial decisions.
In the 63rd minute James McGeorge was, in some people’s eyes, controversially sent off for a second bookable offence. The Birtley player who was fouled rolled about on the ground and then was suddenly up on his feet once McGeorge had left the pitch. Even if people think it was a bookable offence, what is undeniable is the way that the Birtley players dealt with it was unacceptable with 6 or 7 players surrounding the referee, screaming at him and instructing him what decision to make.
Down to 10 men, the Bay were going to have to pull off a miracle to get back into the game, yet any hopes of this were dashed almost immediately. The referee gave them a penalty for what looked like a clear dive. The penalty was converted by Alex Francis in the 71st minute and it was pretty much game over at that point.
In the 76th minute, a quadruple change was made by Nick Gray as Lowery, Richardson, Gilchrist and Holmes all made way for Wilkinson, Suddick, Storr and Finlay Neary. One minute later things went from bad to worse for the Bay as Matthew Ward curled a shot off the post and into the bottom right corner, making it his fifth goal in three games for the visitors.
In the 82nd, Birtley extended their advantage to four goals as Glen Hargrave scored his side's fifth goal of the game.
No chances came towards the end of the game and the whistle was blown at 5-1 to Birtley.
A very frustrating day at the office for the lads and it wasn’t helped by a sending off and a penalty.
WHITLEY BAY: Pickering, Cartwright, Lowery(F.Neary 76mins), Richardson(Storr 76mins), Hall, Almond, Gilchrist(Brewis 76mins), Ellison, Davison(Suddick 69mins), McGeorge, Holmes(Wilkinson 76mins)
Cautions: Cartwright, Holmes McGeorge (Red card)
Referee: Nick Vincent
Assistant referees: William Carter and Ross Perry