Bay beaten by West Auckland in nine-goal contest

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Despite the final 6-3 scoreline, a severely depleted Whitley Bay side can take considerable credit from a battling performance at West Auckland on Tuesday evening.

Following the eight-goal thriller at Billingham Synthonia three days earlier, this game produced nine goals but unfortunately for Whitley it was the home side that came out on top.

Bay went into the game without Chris McDonald and Paul Chow, both of whom were missing their first game of the season.

In came Liam Harris and Ryan Redford while Dan Gladstone replaced the unavailable Mark Cook in goal.

West Auckland were missing striker Mattie Moffatt through injury but their new management team were still able to field a strong squad.

The omens for Whitley were not good when they went behind after just five minutes, the goal coming when Steven Richardson converted a cross from Jake Fowler.

However, thanks in part to solid defending, the anticipated onslaught from the hosts did not materialise and Whitley gradually forced their way into the game, with Michael Laws getting a shot on target after 19 minutes before Robbie Bird cut in from the left and fired over the bar.

Peter Watling had a great chance to level the score after 31 minutes but delayed his shot, giving defender Pattinson time to get back and clear the ball off the line.

Shortly afterwards, a long ball upfield caught out the Auckland defence and reached Bird who broke through on goal only for keeper Dan Lowson to race out and block his shot.

Whitley created problems for the home side but the course of the game changed dramatically in the space of three minutes.

Fowler tried his luck with a long range effort that Gladstone did well to fingertip over the bar, but from the resultant corner the Auckland man doubled his side’s lead at the second attempt after his first shot had rebounded back into his path off a Bay defender and he drove the ball just inside the near post.

The goal came against the run of play but almost immediately, Whitley might have pulled a goal back when Watling turned inside the 18-yard box and fired a low shot just wide with Lowson struggling to make his ground.

Two minutes later West Auckland got a third goal when a shot from the left caught Gladstone unsighted and although he got his hands to the ball he could not hold it and it ran loose into the path of Richardson who slotted it home to put his side into what looked like an unassailable lead with five minutes of the first half still remaining.

Josh Day replaced Harris after the interval but within three minutes of the restart, Whitley conceded a fourth when Gladstone raced out to clear a long ball upfield but misjudged the bounce on the uneven surface, missed the ball and gifted the opportunity to Richardson to complete his hat-trick.

Undaunted, Whitley fought straight back and Bird was tripped as he cut in across the edge of the penalty area but the resulting free kick flew over the bar.

Then, ten minutes into the half, in a dramatic turn of events, it looked as if Whitley might be given a reprieve when two of the floodlights failed and the bottom half of the ground was plunged into darkness.

Play was suspended and it seemed likely that the game would have to be abandoned. But after an eight-minute delay power was restored and the game restarted.

The delay did not seem to have affected Whitley and they switched back on more quickly that the home side, pulling a goal back within three minutes.

Laws found space on the left as he approached the Auckland 18-yard box and his cross to the right was volleyed home in style by Jonny Godsmark for his first Northern League goal in Bay colours.

It was a well worked goal but it seemed no more than a consolation.

However, seven minutes later, just moments after coming on for his first team debut, substitute Connor Johnson played the ball over the top and Watling’s well timed run saw him go clear of the home defence and his powerful drive beat Lowson to reduce the arrears further.

Quite remarkably, Auckland were beginning to look rattled and a double substitution quickly followed, but it made little difference as a battling Bay side so nearly got a third goal after 77 minutes when Bird broke away on the left and his dangerous ball low across the goalmouth flew just inches past the outstretched foot of Watling.

Another goal at that stage would have set up a grandstand finale, but the game once again swung back, this time decisively in favour of the home side.

On 83 minutes a defensive error let in Robert Briggs to fire home a fifth goal for Auckland.

Two minutes later they grabbed a sixth but there was nothing Whitley could do about this one. An excellent goal from Ian Ward whose first time effort from a right wing cross gave Gladstone no chance.

Even at this stage, Whitley, showing remarkable resilience, still kept going and a 20-yard shot from Johnson only just cleared the bar.

Then when Alex Kempster fired a shot across goal that appeared to be drifting fractionally wide, Auckland skipper Lewis Galpin almost put the ball in his own net, blazing it back across goal only inches beyond the opposite post.

Four minutes into time added on for the floodlight failure, Kempster deservedly got a third goal for Whitley with a well executed finish into the roof of the net from Godsmark’s pinpoint cross.

Two minutes later, with Whitley still piling forward, Bird drove a shot wide just wide of the target.

The battling spirit, determination and effort from start to finish shown throughout the Bay side could not be faulted, but against one of the top teams in the league, it was always going to be a tough task and West Auckland were clinical in their finishing and quick to capitalise on defensive mistakes.

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Harris (Day 46), McFarlane, Laws, Ryan, Smith, Bird, Redford (Johnson 71), Watling, Kempster, Godsmark. Subs not used: Potter, N Jarvis-Smith.