Points shared in derby clash


Wednesday 21st February

Report by Julian Tyley

An entertaining game at Grounsell Park ended all square as the two Tyneside rivals battled for points to keep themselves in the hunt for a promotion play off place.

Both teams were looking to get back to winning ways after weekend defeats to the top two sides in the league.

Whitley made several changes to the team heavily beaten by Shildon on Saturday. Graeme Pickering returned in goal while fit again Elliott Day and the Neary brothers were also back in the starting line up.

Right from the start, Whitley looked the more lively and forced the hosts back in their own half.

In the sixth minute Lewis Suddick was narrowly off target with the first chance of the game. Four minutes later James McGeorge attacked down the right but his cross into the box flew behind Gilchrist and out for a throw in.

Neat passing and attacking runs down both flanks were troubling the home side whose first attempt on goal came after 22 minutes when a ball into the goalmouth from the left was headed behind by captain Michael Hall, for a corner which Whitley defended effectively.

Continuing to look the better side, Whitley deservedly took them lead in the 28th minute when Stan keeper Lewis Brass could only parry a fierce shot from the left of the box by Day and Josh Gilchrist pounced to poke home the rebound.

Four minutes later Whitley might have added a second but after great work down the left, Suddick’s shot from the edge of the box went inches beyond the far post with Brass beaten.

Attacking runs down the wing by Elliott Day were putting the home defence under pressure and when he drove a low ball across goal there was no one on hand to apply the finish but only moments later McGeorge crossed from the right and the ball was headed behind by a defender. From the resultant corner, Michael Hall sent a header just over the bar.

Attempts by the Stan to break away to the other end were quickly snuffed out with the Bay midfield setting up repeated attacking moves and with 41 minutes played, Fin Neary drilled in a powerful shot but it was straight at Brass and the keeper made the save.

After a very impressive first half display, Whitley were ahead but it was only a slender margin which did not reflect their superiority and meant that the hosts were still very much in the game.

Not surprisingly, Heaton came out after the interval looking more lively and they began to retain the ball better, pushing Whitley back into their own half, but the Bay rearguard were looking solid with Almond and Hall once again in commanding form.

The inevitably heavy pitch contributed to errors by both sides and when Whitley lost possession deep in their own half, they quickly recovered to get men behind the ball and prevent a shot on goal.

The home side made three substitutions around the hour mark and their introduction made a difference as they stepped up the pace of their game.

There seemed little threat to Whitley when after 65 minutes, Nick Cassidy, one of the Stan substitutes floated the ball in from way out on the left. The flight of the ball appeared to deceive Pickering as it went over his head before dipping just under the top corner of the goal and into the net for the equaliser.

Perhaps fortunate to be back on level terms, the goal invigorated the home side and they enjoyed their best spell of the game but despite their possession they still struggled to break down a resolute Bay defence.

With 14 minutes left, another dangerous ball across goal by Day nearly produced a spectacular finish from Suddick, but he could not get enough contact on the ball and it flew well wide.

Play was briefly held up while Cartwright, another Bay player who had turned in an excellent performance, went down injured and had to be replaced.

To their credit, despite tiring in the closing stages, both sides continued to search for a winner and Harvey Neary went close for Whitley but with four minutes left, it was the Stan who might have grabbed all three points when Hopper turned in the box but his shot was narrowly off target.

After a hard fought 1-0 victory at Hillheads last month, this was another very close contest between two well matched sides but this performance and the character shown by Whitley was just what was required after the disappointment of the previous Saturday.

WHITLEY BAY: Pickering, Cartwright (Wilkinson 77mins), Day, Ellison, Hall, Almond, McGeorge, H Neary, Gilchrist (Storr 71mins) F Neary, Suddick

Substitutes not used: Benedetti, Law, Hodgson

Cautions: Ellison, H Neary

Referee: Mark McMahon

Attendance: 413

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