Bay return to winning ways at West Auckland


Friday 24th February

Two goals in the first 20 minutes set Whitley on the road to a rare victory at West Auckland on a cold and showery evening.

Looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats, they could hardly have made a better start, taking the lead inside the fourth minute. Playing up the slope into a stiff northerly wind, they broke forward up the left and when Mark Davison crossed from near the by-line, Josh Gilchrist was on hand to tap home from close range.

Whitley were posing a threat whenever they went on the attack and Gilchrist nearly added a second with a powerful shot that keeper Daniel Cameron parried but could not hold; Auckland defenders eventually scrambling the ball clear.

At the other end an attempt on goal by the home side was well blocked by Pat Nash.

Whitley were stretching the home defence with attacks down the wings and in the 20th minute Adam Patterson took the ball wide on the right before crossing into the six yard box where Davison fired home to double the lead with his first goal for the club.

The first of several bursts of heavy rain then swept down the pitch, making conditions slippery for the players and unpleasant for those fans who were not under cover.

Whitley remained comfortably in control and while West Auckland had a good share of possession, they rarely looked like breaking through a well organised Bay rearguard who were quick to the ball and tackled tenaciously.

Four minutes before the interval, the hosts won a free kick 25 yards from goal but they were unable to capitalise as the ball was headed wide, leaving Whitley deservedly two goals ahead at half time.

Auckland looked much more lively after the break and soon forced Whitley back up the slope as they attempted to get back in the game. An early substitution by the Bay saw Patterson, who had suffered an injury in the first half, replaced by Michael Hall, who was himself returning from injury suffered at Pickering two weeks earlier.

Five minutes later a wind assisted right wing corner from Luke Porritt crashed onto the bar, with Cameron and his defenders grateful to see the ball cleared from danger.

The home side were enjoying the majority of possession and also territorial advantage but were still struggling to get shots on target. Play became rather scrappy with both sides conceding possession on a regular basis. A further series of short downpours swept down the ground sending fans scurrying for cover.

Chances at either end were at a premium with neither keeper being seriously tested. A third goal for Whitley would have settled the game but they were sitting back in defence perhaps too much rather than going for a decisive goal and this was encouraging Auckland to press further forward.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, the home side were rewarded when a regulation cross into the box was dropped by Nash and Corey Nicholson pounced to poke the ball into the net.

The goal gave encouragement to West Auckland and backed by their previously quiet fans, they pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Relieving the pressure, Porritt burst away down the left and so nearly restored Whitley’s two goal advantage, but his shot flew the wrong side of the post and hit the side netting.

A double substitution with ten minutes left saw Jackson Ward and Noah Millington come off the bench, and teenager Millington nearly settled the game when he broke away down the right but his shot was narrowly off target.

Whitley were penalised by a flurry of yellow cards in the closing stages as they saw out the game without undue alarm to earn victory and their first league double over West Auckland in 14 years. It may not have been the most entertaining game for the fans but what mattered most for Whitley was getting back to winning ways after recent defeats.

With leaders Newton Aycliffe suffering a surprise defeat, there is still everything to play for in the title race and with ten games remaining, Whitley are still very much in the hunt for honours.

In what could be a pivotal weekend, two of next Saturday’s games feature the top four sides with Whitley travelling to third placed Bishop Auckland while leaders Newton Aycliffe host second top Ashington.

WHITLEY BAY: Nash, Patterson(Hall 53mins), Day, Turnbull, Lowery, Hutchinson, Neary, Richardson, Davison, Gilchrist(Millington 80mins), Porritt(Ward 80mins)

Not used: Young, Morien

Cautions: Turnbull, Neary, Millington

Referee: David Carr

Attendance: 207

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