A DULL and damp Good Friday afternoon at Sam Smith’s Sports Ground was matched by what can only be described as a less than exciting local derby between Newcastle Benfield and Whitley Bay.
Whitley had enough chances to have won the game quite comfortably but after Callum Anderson was sent off midway through the second half, they were grateful to come away with a point.
With David Pounder, Darren Timmons, Chris Fawcett and LeePaul Scroggins all unavailable due to holiday and work commitments, Bay manager Ian Chandler was left with few options in his team selection against a Benfield side searching for some late season form under caretaker manager Perry Briggs.
After a quiet opening period, Whitley went ahead in the 13th minute.
Paul Robinson won possession from Kevin Leighton about 20 yards from goal and played the ball through ball to Paul Chow on the right side of the Benfield area.
Turning quickly, Chow fired a left footed shot into the bottom corner of the net, catching Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger off his guard.
The home defence was unable to cope with the height of Brian Smith when goalkeeper Kyle Hayes floated a free kick from just inside the Bay half towards the home 18 yard-box.
Gary Ormston got a foot to Smith’s downward header but keeper Grainger came out to block the shot.
At the other end, Robinson made a timely clearance when the home side threatened.
Back came Whitley and a first time effort from Chow was parried by Grainger before the keeper claimed the ball at the second attempt.
There was little more goalmouth action in the opening half and Whitley seemed to be comfortably in control at the interval.
A second goal shortly after the restart might have settled the game, but Robinson’s back post shot was pushed wide.
An effort from Lee Kerr was parried on the hour mark as Whitley continued to have the better of what few chances were created.
However, with 67 minutes on the clock, slack marking allowed Benfield back in the game when a cross-field pass found John Alexander in space on the left edge of the 18-yard box and he levelled the score with a shot that beat Hayes at the near post.
An important tackle by Lumsden denied Chow a chance three minutes later, and as Whitley tried to regain the lead, a strong run by Craig McFarlane ended with a shot over the bar.
Then with 18 minutes left, Anderson inexplicably grabbed Jordan Lartey after the two had challenged for the ball, pushing the Benfield substitute to the ground.
The result was an inevitable red card – Anderson’s third of the season – leaving the visitors having to play out the remainder of the game with ten men.
This gave Benfield hope of snatching an unlikely victory, but Whitley held on and indeed might have won the game in the closing stages.
Firstly, as the rain came down more heavily, McFarlane connected with a cross from substitute Michael McMullen and his looping shot was collected high above his head by Grainger.
Hayes then made a good save at the other end as he held on to a deflected shot that was heading for goal.
Six minutes from time, Kerr’s persistence won him the ball from Philip Gray near the right touch line.
He advanced down the wing before playing a low cross into the penalty area which Robinson curled only inches beyond the far post.
In the end both sides seemed content to settle for a draw, with Whitley retaining their unbeaten league record on this ground.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson, McFarlane, Reid, Smith, Williams, Ormston (McMullen 70 mins), Robson, Kerr, Chow, Robinson (Rowe 87 mins).
Video highlights of the game can be seen here