Gifted goals deny Bay victory


Wednesday 17th April

Report by Julian Tyley

Whitley’s defensive lapses were in evidence once again as they gifted their hosts two goals and had to settle for a share of the spoils on a cold night in North Yorkshire.

This game, originally scheduled for last Saturday, was moved by the League in an attempt to accommodate fixtures postponed during the very wet weather. As it turned out, the switch suited neither side as Northallerton were left without a game on Saturday while the long midweek journey and late return home meant that Whitley’s normally large away following was severely depleted, denying the home side valuable income at the gate and in the clubhouse.

Several Bay players could not make the 130 mile round journey due to work commitments leaving a threadbare squad, while Marc Ellison was completing a two match suspension, but on a positive note it gave an opportunity for 18 year old Harry Law to make his full debut after eight appearances as a substitute while Lewis Ritson made only his third start after picking up an injury shortly after his arrival at Hillheads last month.

Coming into the game third from bottom, confidence among the home side must have been low but they were given a huge boost inside the fifth minute when a long ball over the top should have been played back for Dan Lister to clear but the Bay defenders appeared to be caught cold and Scott Lowery was beaten by the pace of Ali Banks who took it wide of Lister before slotting the ball into the net to give the hosts an early lead.

Whitley seemed not to have learned from this mistake as just three minutes later Banks again broke clear of the lethargic defence but to the relief of the Bay side, his shot struck the post and rebounded across goal and away from danger.

When Whitley pushed forward they immediately troubled the home defence and Gilchrist’s shot was fumbled by keeper Jack Norton.  The ball rolled loose and Law pounced to try and poke it into the net but Norton dived on it and took a bad knock as he collided with the Bay youngster.

The keeper was in obvious pain and needed lengthy treatment before being able to continue.

Whitley pressed forward again aiming to test Norton and in the 15th minute they gained their reward when Harvey Neary slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net from around 12 yards following good build up play involving Gilchrist.

Elliott Day began to make an impact down the left wing and just before the half hour his cross into the six yard box caused problems for Town who were relieved to scramble the ball clear after several shots were blocked.

Finishing the half on top, Whitley twice had chances to take the lead. Two minutes before the interval Day had a strong shot on goal pushed wide by Norton then moments later Law was played through following a poor clearance by the hosts. Rather than taking a shot himself, he played the ball to Gilchrist in a more central position but the attempt from Bay’s top scorer went narrowly wide of the upright.

The second half began as the first half had, with a goal, but this time it was Whitley who made the breakthrough, Harvey Neary firing home a cross from the right that left Norton well beaten. With just three minutes played, it was the perfect start and it looked as if this might see Whitley on their way to a comfortable win, but it took them just four more minutes to gift their hosts another goal and cancel out their advantage.

Another mistake in defence, this time from Michael Hall, saw the skipper play the ball across the 18 yard box, expecting a fellow defender to be there to receive it. To Whitley’s dismay, there was no one in blue and white to collect it and Jonny Shepherd could not believe his luck as he seized on the ball and gave Lister no chance as he slid home the equaliser.

A few minutes later, a low cross from Conway flew across the Bay six yard box but no Town player could reach it to test Lister.

Back came Whitley and just before the hour, three attempts on goal were blocked, Harvey Neary twice and then Law denied by brave defending.

Law, who had worked hard and posed a threat on the right wing, was replaced by Jos Storr while Evan Wilkinson took the place of Lowery. Debutant Juan Valbuena was also given his chance for the final 15 minutes and soon got an attempt narrowly wide of goal though it was flagged offside.

Crosses into the box, in particular from Cartwright and Day, were cleared by Northallerton who defended in depth but were not put under sufficient pressure.

Frustration eventually got the better of Josh Gilchrist when a decision went against him and he was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. However, despite being down to ten men, there was never a real threat from Northallerton who despite twice winning free kicks in dangerous positions, seemed content to settle for a point. As had been the case throughout the game, Lister was rarely called upon but when required, his handling was confident and he could not be faulted for the goals.

Despite missing the likes of Almond, Ellison, Suddick and Geliher, there was still enough strength in the Whitley squad to have picked up all three points from this game but their cause was not helped by the way they conceded both of Northallerton’s goals.

WHITLEY BAY; Lister, Ritson, Day, Cartwright, Hall, Lowery(Wilkinson 55mins) F Neary(Valbuena 75mins), H Neary, Gilchrist, Brewis, Law(Storr 64mins)

Cautions: Ritson, Cartwright, Hall

Sin-bin: Gilchrist

Referee: Alex Bourner

Attendance: 114

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