PENRITH 2 WHITLEY BAY 1
Saturday 30th December 2023
By Julian Tyley
While delighted to be back in action after a five week break due to multiple postponements, there was disappointment for Whitley as they slipped to defeat at Penrith. It was one of very few games to survive the continued wet weather and only went ahead thanks to the brand new 3G all weather pitch that had been installed at Frenchfield and opened during the autumn.
The Bay fans who had made the trip to Cumbria saddened by the passing of long serving Treasurer and Director Jennifer Breakwell shortly before Christmas, were joined by the home fans in a one minute applause in her memory ahead of kick off. It was a particularly poignant and moving occasion as just under a year ago at the same venue, there was a similar mark of respect shown following the death of Jennifer’s husband Derek, an equally long serving Whitley Bay Director and Club Secretary.
When the game got underway, Whitley started brightly and might have taken the lead inside the second minute. Elliott Day took the ball down the left wing before sending it beyond the home defence across the face of goal but there was no one closing in quickly enough to apply the finishing touch and when a Bay player did reach the ball, it was fired high over the bar.
Whitley continued to pose the greater threat, moving the ball about quickly on the excellent surface and getting several good balls into the box but they failed to test home keeper Aaran Taylor. With 19 minutes played, Bailey Geliher was almost played through on goal but he was thwarted by Taylor.
Penrith’s first attempt on target came in the 22nd minute but Graeme Pickering blocked an attempt by Luke Hunter.
The hosts were coming more into the game and just past the half hour they took the lead thanks to a perfectly struck shot from Conor Hamell whose effort from the edge of the box beat the dive of Pickering and flew into the far corner of the net. However there was controversy in the build up to the goal as Elliott Day went down in a challenge with Hamell and appeared to have been tripped but the officials felt there had been no contact made and play was allowed to continue with Hamell taking full advantage of the situation. Day protested too strongly and as a result he was sin-binned leaving Whitley a man short for ten minutes.
The nearest Whitley came to an equaliser before the interval was in the 41st minute when a cross from the right was flicked wide of the upright by Jos Storr.
Shortly after the restart, another half chance came when Cameron Brewis played the ball across the six yard box but it was just too far ahead of Mark Davison.
Penrith were looking more of a threat in front of goal and with 58 minutes played, Luke Brown crashed a powerful shot off the underside of the bar and Whitley were grateful to see the ball rebound away from goal.
Three minutes later the Cumbrians got a deserved second goal and it came when Robbie Hebson took his chance from around 30 yards out and his shot beat Pickering to put the hosts in firm control of the game. Michael Hall and Fin Neary were brought off the bench but still the home side looked comfortable.
Whitley might have reduced the arrears after 70 minutes when Ellison’s cross from the right was miscued by a defender towards goal but Taylor managed to retrieve the ball before Whitley could capitalise.
The rain which had been falling for much of the game became heavier in the closing stages and any hopes of a Bay comeback looked bleak but in the third minute of added time, they did give their fans something to cheer when Davison headed home at the back post from Ellison’s cross. Almost straight from the restart they went back up the pitch and Davison sent another header looping just over the bar and onto the roof of the net. It all came too late to change the outcome and this effort was virtually the last action of the game as Penrith recorded their fifth consecutive victory on their new playing surface.
WHITLEY BAY: Pickering, H Neary, Day, Turnbull(Hall 62mins), Almond, Richardson (Wilkinson 82mins) Geliher(F Neary 66mins), Ellison, Davison, Brewis, Storr
Substitute not used: Dobson
Referee: Aidan Hewitt