At the end of a difficult week, Whitley Bay suffered their third successive defeat in what was a remarkable game at Newcastle Benfield.
The last time the sides met at the Sam Smith’s Sports Ground it was Ian Chandler’s final game as manager, this time it was Whitley’s first game since the departure of his successor Leon Ryan.
Assistant manager Steve Foster took charge of the side and handed a return debut to goalkeeper Warren Dobson, who has had Football League experience at Hartlepool and Queens Park Rangers and last played for Whitley as a youngster in their Northern Premier League days in 1999.
He has recently been operating in a coaching capacity but came into the side with teenage keeper Dan Gladstone being rested.
Both sides came into the game looking to bounce back following recent disappointing results including FA Vase exits last weekend.
In the proverbial game of two halves, all the goals came in the opening period when for the second time in four days Whitley conceded four goals in just 27 minutes as their current defensive frailties were highlighted once again.
Benfield took the lead with eight minutes on the clock when Paul Brayson seized on a defensive lapse to finish from close range.
Sixty seconds later Whitley were back on terms when Peter Watling headed home at the back post from a left wing cross by Alex Kempster.
The home side regained their lead after 16 minutes when Dan Taylor fired a shot across Dobson after more poor defending by the visitors.
But once again there was a rapid response as four minutes later Bay levelled for the second time. This time Paul Robinson’s perfect through ball reached Robbie Bird just inside the Benfield half. Racing clear of the home back four, Bird closed in on goal before drilling a low shot past Andrew Grainger.
Back came Benfield and on the half hour Brayson was on hand to head home a pin point cross from Taylor, who took full advantage after being allowed acres of space on the left.
Less than a minute later Whitley thought they should have had a penalty after Paul Chow was brought down but the trip was deemed to have been just inches outside the 18-yard box.
When Taylor got his second for the hosts just four minutes later after Slaughter’s shot had been blocked, it gave Benfield the relative comfort of a two-goal lead, but with half-time approaching, David Berry headed home Whitley’s third, a rare goal for the Bay fitness coach from the narrowest of angles as he beat Grainger to Chris McDonald’s looping cross from the left.
Talk among the crowd during the half-time interval centred on how many more goals there would be, with both defences looking extremely vulnerable, but in the event there were none, despite the second 45 minutes being almost all Whitley.
Their dominance was partly due to the fact that Benfield were reduced to ten men just five minutes after the restart and then played a ‘backs to the wall’ game for the remainder of the match.
Steven Baptist was injured in a challenge inside the Bay half but play was allowed to continue and when he eventually picked himself up, Baptist fired a volley of foul and abusive language at referee Barry Gordon, who promptly sent him off, leaving the hosts a man short and seemingly handing a big advantage to Bay.
Despite penning Benfield back inside their own half for long periods, Whitley could not find a way through, spurning chance after chance.
A free kick from Kempster was deflected wide before Robinson side-footed a shot past the post.
Chow had a header saved by Grainger and then Bird had a shot blocked after playing a one-two with Brad Brooking.
A rare opportunity at the other end saw a header from Lewis Scorgie saved on the line by Dobson while for Whitley Robinson had a shot destined for the top corner superbly pushed over the bar by Grainger.
The goals that had seemed inevitable earlier in the half failed to materialise and dogged defending by Benfield eventually brought its reward as they held on for all three points.
Whitley Bay: Dobson, Brooking, McDonald (Godsmark 86), Berry (Redford 70), Laws, Reid, Bird, Kempster, Watling, Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Gladstone, Day.