A GOAL from Tomi Ameobi midway through the second half gave Whitley Bay three valuable points from their midweek game against FA Vase holders Dunston UTS.
The visitors went into the game on an excellent run of form, having won their last five games without conceding a goal.
However, like Whitley, Dunston are currently playing three games a week and not surprisingly given the heavy schedule, both sides were below full strength due to a combination of injuries and squad rotation.
On yet another cold night, the sides came onto the field accompanied by mascots from the visiting Potters Bar Primary School side, who were in Whitley Bay for the North Tyneside Football Festival.
Whitley had the edge in the early stages, but after James Fairley saw a shot blocked after ten minutes, Dunston’s Lewis Teasdale fired an effort across goal at the other end.
Brad Brooking surprised Dunston keeper Liam Connell when from a narrow angle out on the right he tried a shot rather than crossing the ball and Connell just managed to push it over the bar.
A minute later, Brooking again went close when his looping header almost deceived Connell, the keeper touching the ball onto the bar.
As Whitley maintained the pressure, Lee Kerr’s pass put Fairley in on goal but he fired just over.
At the other end, Kyle Hayes was kept busy but had only one really testing save to make as the Bay defence looked strong.
In the continued absence through injury of Callum Anderson and Chris Reid, Tomi Ameobi was proving influential at the back, while also proving his worth up front, on several occasions chasing what appeared to be lost causes and winning possession.
The second half saw Whitley steadily take control of the game but lacking height up front, they were struggling to get telling shots on goal.
The game changed just after the hour mark when Paul Chow came off the bench.
In their next attack, Whitley caused confusion in their opponents defence as Dunston players seemed to concentrate on addressing the challenge of Chow, and when LeePaul Scroggins received a short pass from Fairley, his ball into the goalmouth found Ameobi unmarked and he quickly lashed the ball into the roof of the net from four yards out.
It was fitting that Ameobi should score the crucial goal as he was having an impressive game and was the popular choice as man of the match.
Having breached such a water tight defence, Whitley nearly got a second goal six minutes later when a neat move ended with Paul Robinson rifling a stinging shot towards goal. Connell could only parry the effort but recovered quickly enough to gather the ball before a Bay player could reach it. Craig McFarlane, defending resolutely, kept Whitley in front as he cleared the ball off the line, but although Dunston battled away well they struggled to make an impression and failed to test Hayes.
Robinson made way for debutant Dillon Blake for the last 15 minutes and the teenager gave a good account of himself in a defensive midfield role.
Whitley held on comfortably in the closing stages of a game that was notable for the excellent spirit in which it was played with not one bad challenge from either side; proof if it were needed that a game can be keenly contested without having to resort to rash or unfair tactics.
It was certainly an instance of players setting a good example to the young footballers in the crowd.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Brooking, Novak, McFarlane, Ameobi, Scroggins, Pounder (Chow 61 mins), Kerr, Fairley (C Smith 89), Fawcett, Robinson (Blake 75).