WHITLEY Bay maintained their remarkable record against Bishop Auckland with their 11th successive league victory against the County Durham side at the weekend.
Saturday’s game saw both sides aiming to put heavy midweek defeats behind them and it was Whitley who came out on top in very windy conditions at Heritage Park.
Robbie Dale missed the game through injury while Paul Robinson was unwell.
But even without the two influential players, it was still a strong starting line-up, with Lee Kerr back up front alongside Paul Chow.
Bay opted to play with the wind at their backs in the first half and with barely four minutes gone there was a flare up in the Bishops’ goalmouth involving Paul Chow and ex-Bay defender Ian Dixon.
The referee talked at length to both players in an effort to calm the situation.
The strength of the wind inevitably caused difficulty for both sides, as when Kerr put the ball out wide for Chris Fawcett only to see it blown behind for a goal kick.
Much of the game was being played in the Bishops’ half and during a Bay attack, Dixon was again involved in a tussle with Chow, pushing the striker to the ground as the ball was played into the goalmouth.
The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and, Kerr sent keeper Peter Jeffries the wrong way with a perfectly executed spot kick.
The goal, his first in two months, took him above John Gatens into second place in Bay’s all time scoring records.
There were appeals by the home fans for a penalty at the other end when the ball struck a Whitley defender on the arm, and then Walklate brought a relatively comfortable save from Kyle Hayes.
Bishops exerted pressure on the Bay defence and when Walklate crossed from the right five minutes later, the ball was not cut out and when it reached Andrew Johnson the prolific striker turned and fired a shot high into the net giving Hayes no chance.
At the other end, Chow’s low cross into the goalmouth was gathered by Jeffries just ahead of Kerr, while in a similar move by the home side, the ball eluded everyone as it flew across the Bay goalmouth and Atkinson wasted a great chance to put Bishops into the lead.
The game was switching quickly from end to end and when Jeffries could not hold the ball from Pounder’s corner, he was relieved to see Kerr fire the loose ball into the side netting.
Whitley regained the lead after 37 minutes when Jeffries’ clearance was picked up by LeePaul Scroggins just outside the 18-yard box and he surged forwards before slotting the ball beyond the keeper into the bottom corner of the net.
Whitley had an opportunity to extend their lead four minutes later when Jeffries brought down Kerr as he attempted to win the ball and Whitley won their second penalty of the game.
This time, however, Kerr’s powerful low shot was pushed wide as the keeper made a superb diving save to make amends for his foul.
Leading at the interval, Whitley now had to face the force of the wind and the rain that swept intermittently across the ground.
The second half began with play largely confined to the Whitley end and Chris Bell, briefly a Whitley player at the start of the season, provided a teasing cross from the right which Steven Turnbull met with a shot that flew just over the bar.
Hayes was much busier than in the first half and despite the conditions, his handling of the slippery ball was generally confident and he kept out efforts from Johnson and Shead with comfortable saves.
Twelve minutes into the half, Whitley broke quickly from defence to extend their lead with Damon Robson’s excellent ball from midfield setting Kerr away on the right.
He advanced a few yards before curling a great shot from the edge of the penalty area into the far corner of the net.
It was a crucial goal which gave Whitley a cushion and left the home side staring at another defeat by Ian Chandler’s side.
Both Craig McFarlane and Scroggins were taken off during the final quarter of the game, being replaced by Gary Ormston and Chris Reid.
In a rare attack, David Pounder curled an effort over the bar but back at the opposite end, with the game in stoppage time, Johnson went close with the ball coming back off the post.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson, McFarlane, Robson, Coulson, Williams, Fawcett, Scroggins (Reid 74 mins), Kerr, Chow, McFarlane (Ormston 67mins). Subs not used: Kindley, Robinson, Smith.