PICKERING TOWN 0 WHITLEY BAY 3
Saturday 11th February
The long trip to North Yorkshire proved a fruitful one for Whitley as they returned with all three points following a well deserved victory over Pickering Town. The Pikes have not found life easy since dropping into the Northern League this season but after three consecutive victories at Mill Lane since the turn of the year they are clearly finding their feet. Two of those successes have been against title challengers Bishop Auckland and Ashington so for Whitley to record a 3-0 win is all the more impressive.
Nick Gray made just one change from the side that beat Crook Town seven days earlier, Scott Lowery coming in for Adam Patterson.
Barely 60 seconds after the kick off, play was held up following a bad injury to Pickering captain Wayne Brooksby, who was unable to continue and had to be carried off the field.
There was little action in the opening stages of the game, the first attempt on goal coming in the 11th minute when Bailey Geliher’s cross was met by Harvey Neary, whose shot was held by keeper Hunt at the second attempt. Pickering’s first attack of note came with 19 minutes played, when debutant Sam Conway broke through but his shot was blocked and went behind. The resulting corner brought a chance for the hosts with a header flying just over the bar.
Gradually, Whitley began to impose themselves on the game and they took the lead on the half hour. The goal came after a good attacking move started by Luke Porritt. When the ball reached Ben Richardson out on the left, he crossed it into the box where it was met by Michael Hall, whose header crashed off the inside of the left hand post and into the net. It was the captain’s first goal in Bay colours and quite remarkably, he became the 19th player to score for the club this season.
The pace of the game increased following the goal with both sides looking to attack but without troubling either keeper.
To the delight of their excellent following of fans who had made the long journey and contributed to the biggest crowd of the season at Mill Lane, Whitley grabbed a crucial second goal in first half stoppage time. Richardson floated a corner in from the left and with the home side failing to clear the ball, Scott Lowery headed home at the back post. It left Whitley firmly in control of the game when the half time whistle was blown less than a minute later.
Starting the second half in a positive manner, Whitley immediately pushed forward but Pickering responded with determination as they looked for a way back into the game.
Shortly after Elliott Day was cautioned for tugging an opponent’s shirt, the home side claimed a penalty and were incensed when the referee awarded Whitley a free kick, with players racing towards the official and protesting strongly.
Frustration was growing among the home players and it cost them dearly in the 58th minute when Jamie Thornton was sent off for using foul and abusive language.
With a man advantage for the last half hour, the odds seemed stacked in favour of Whitley and Lowery had a chance to get a second goal when he burst clear on the right edge of the box but he blazed his shot over the bar when he should at least have tested the keeper.
Pickering were offering little in attack and Whitley put the result beyond doubt in the 77th minute thanks to an outstanding individual goal from Elliott Day. The wing back had been attacking down the left flank with increasing success and on this occasion, he turned inside his man close to the by-line on the left edge of the box, cut back and curled a superb shot into the top right corner of the net, giving HHHunt no chance.
Five minutes from time, Pat Nash, who had a quiet afternoon in the Bay goal, made a comfortable save above his head from a rare effort on target by the Pikes. With the game entering stoppage time, substitute Noah Millington almost added a fourth for Whitley with a strong shot from the left side of the box but his attempt was deflected over the bar for a corner.
With all their main rivals at the top of the table also winning, Whitley remain in third place, one point behind Bishop Auckland but with two games in hand.
Whitley will go into Tuesday’s tough game at leaders Newton Aycliffe in good heart after this success which brought no injuries.
WHITLEY BAY: Nash, Lowery, Day, Turnbull, Hall, Hutchinson, Neary, Richardson, Morien(Gilchrist 71mins) geliher (Millington 77mins), Porritt(Ward 77mins)
Not used: Lister
Cautions: Day, Porritt
Referee: Michael Studholme