WHITLEY BAY 2 PENRITH 0
Saturday 29th July
Whitley started the new season in identical fashion to last year, with a 2-0 victory over Penrith on a fine summer’s afternoon at Hillheads. Indeed the similarities did not end there as once again it was Harvey Neary who got the opening goal but having scored on his debut 12 months ago, the winner of last season’s Young Player of the Year award went one better this time, getting both of the goals as Whitley began the season with a well deserved victory.
Whitley included three debutants in their starting line up, Andrew Cartwright, Lewis Scorgie and Luke Page, but were without Josh Gilchrist and Bailey Geliher who suffered injuries during pre-season.
The excellent playing surface had drawn praise from every visiting side during the pre-season friendlies and it was in pristine condition for this opening competitive fixture.
There was no threat to either goal in a quiet opening period with a number of passes drifting out of play as both sides accustomed themselves to the strong breeze.
On the quarter hour a header from Mark Davison flew over the Penrith bar but four minutes later Whitley broke the deadlock with a well worked goal. A throw in on the left deep inside the Bay half was played forward and flicked neatly by Cameron Brewis into the path of Matty Weirs who raced away down the wing before crossing for the unmarked Harvey Neary to slot home from eight yards.
The success lifted Whitley and barely three minutes later Elliott Day curled a shot from wide on the left just beyond the far post. Passing the ball around with increased confidence, Whitley were playing some good football and appeared in control, with the Cumbrians posing little threat in attack.
A header from Michael Hall following a right wing corner went just over the bar but ten minutes before the interval Whitley suffered the first of two worrying injuries when Cameron Brewis required lengthy treatment. Just before the half time whistle, Elliott Day also went down injured and after the break, both players were substituted, with Wayne Phillips making his return debut after rejoining the club during the summer. Teenager Noah Millington also came off the bench to play a forward role.
The loss of two key players was obviously a blow but Whitley were quickly back in their stride and doubled their lead within seven minutes of the resumption.
While the goal had an element of fortune, it was reward for Neary’s determination and skill after receiving the ball from Andrew Cartwright just inside the Penrith half. Holding off the challenges of several defenders as he closed in on goal, his shot from just inside the 18 yard box took deflections off a defender and goalkeeper before ending up in the back of the net.
Two goals ahead, Whitley looked to be heading for a comfortable victory but Penrith kept battling away and might have pulled a goal back midway through the half when Daniel Smales was played clear on goal but Dan Lister, who had been relatively untroubled up to this point produced an excellent save. Spurred on, Hunter attacked down the Penrith left but his cross was put behind for the first of a series of corners which Whitley dealt with effectively, though in one instance, Michael Hall was forced to send a defensive header not far wide of the upright.
Twelve minutes from time, Lewis Scorgie headed wide for Whitley from Turnbull’s corner while at the other end Hunter fired wide of the far post when well placed. The Cumbrians were making Whitley work hard for the points and approaching the final ten minutes it took a timely tackle from Scorgie to deny a shot on goal.
In stoppage time, Matty Weirs almost broke through the Penrith rearguard who were relieved to conceded a corner.
The final whistle was not long delayed and the crowd of 373 fans gave the players a warm reception as they left the pitch.
Three points and a clean sheet was just the start that Whitley wanted, the one concern being the two first half injuries.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Cartwright, Day(Phillips 46mins), Turnbull, Hall, Scorgie, Neary, Weirs, Davison, Brewis(Millington 46mins), Page
Substitutes not used: Lowery, Richardson, Wilkinson
Cautions: Cartwright, Scorgie, Weirs
Referee: Matthew Davidson
Bay Fencing & Landscaping Man of the match: Harvey Neary