WHICKHAM 0 WHITLEY BAY 0
Tuesday 4th April
Whitley deservedly picked up a point from an evenly contested game at Whickham in their final midweek outing of the season.
The Glebe has always proved to be a difficult venue for Whitley but this was a good performance built on strong and assured defending and was an excellent response to the disappointing display on Saturday. Indeed it was all the more satisfying considering that Whickham had defeated two of Whitley’s top four rivals, Ashington and Bishop Auckland in recent weeks.
On a fine and calm spring evening, Whitley made three changes from the side beaten by Northallerton, with Elliott Day, Stephen Turnbull and Josh Gilchrist all back in the starting eleven.
The hosts started brightly but their initial attack was dealt with comfortably as the tone was set with defences on top.
Whitley’s first attempt on goal came after 14 minutes when Ben Richardson’s corner was met by the head of Mark Davison but saved by keeper Kyle Seymour.
At the other end, with 20 minutes on the clock, Scott Robson looked to have an opportunity but Michael Hall averted the danger.
Eight minutes later a Bay attack involving Geliher and Gilchrist ended with Davison’s low shot up the slope from the right smothered by Seymour at his near post. Day, attacking strongly along the left flank then drove a powerful shot just over the bar as Whitley began to get on top.
On the stroke of half time, the combination of Richardson and Davison nearly paid off as the striker’s header flew narrowly wide of the upright.
Just ninety seconds into the second half, Richardson’s right wing corner down the slope was perfectly flighted and it was Davison again who got on the end of it but his header went agonisingly just wide of the near post.
When Whickham pushed forward, Turner worked his way into the box but excellent defending by Day blocked his attempt on goal.
Just past the hour mark, Whitley pushed forward from midfield and another ball into the goalmouth from up on the right, this time by Harvey Neary, almost deceived Seymour but the young keeper leapt to collect the ball just under the angle of bar and post.
Keeping up the momentum, a quick break by Whitley saw Gilchrist latch on to a ball over the Whickham defence but his attempted lob over the keeper fell just short and was safely gathered.
Into the final ten minutes, Whitley introduced fresh legs with Noah Millington and Jackson Ward coming off the bench.
The Bay appeared to be containing the home side very comfortably but as the game approached stoppage time, Whickham pushed forward with more determination than at any previous stage. Resilient defending, superbly marshalled by captain Michael Hall, frustrated the efforts of the hosts until the final moments when a through ball down the right was met by Robson who broke clear but was forced wide by Lister and his shot went into the side netting, much to the relief of the excellent following of Bay fans who showed their appreciation at the final whsitle.
The point gained edges Whitley within touching distance of a top four finish but realistically the title is now beyond them. However, there is still plenty to play for in the final three games as they sit just two points behind Bishop Auckland and face second top Ashington at Hillheads on Good Friday with a midday kick off.
WHITLEY BAY: Lister, Neary, Day, Turnbull, Hall, Lowery, Gilchrist, Richardson(Ward 85mins) Davison, Geliher, Porritt(Millington 81mins)
Referee: Harvey Websdale