Whitley Bay came from behind in an action packed second half to earn a 3-2 victory at Newton Aycliffe in midweek.
On a fine sunny evening there was little sign of what was to come when Newton Aycliffe, now free of relegation worries, took an early lead and looked much the better team during the first half.
The home side were quicker to the ball while Whitley looked lethargic and it was a combination of these factors that led to the opening goal after just two minutes.
When Aycliffe attacked down the right, David Pounder appeared to hesitate, perhaps expecting an offside decision. However, there was no whistle and the ball was played deep to the back post where Daniel Earl headed home unchallenged. Kyle Hayes may have been impeded by the low sun but it was still poor defending.
Three minutes later Paul Chow was off target from James Novak’s cross.
It was midway through the half before Whitley had another meaningful attempt on goal, Brian Smith heading narrowly wide from Novak’s free kick.
Woodhouse struck the post for Aycliffe with Brian Smith making the clearance, then Davis tried his luck with a 25- yard shot that drifted wide of goal.
The home side looked comfortably in control at the interval and it was clear that Whitley needed to step up a gear if they were to get back in the game.
A double substitution turned out to be crucial as Ian Chandler brought on Craig McFarlane and Chris Fawcett, whose extra pace put pressure on the home defence and contributed to the turn around in fortunes.
It did not look that way in the first five minutes of the half, however, as Aycliffe continued in the ascendency, doubling their lead in the 50th minute when Tom Hinchley drove a shot from the right side of the penalty area past Hayes and into the far corner of the net.
At this stage there looked to be no way back for Whitley, with a repeat of last season’s defeat at this venue appearing inevitable.
However, the substitutions soon began to make an impact.
McFarlane’s right wing corner was not held by Pocklington and after Chow’s effort was cleared, more pressure earned Whitley a second flag kick. This time, the corner was taken by Lee Kerr with Brian Smith heading just wide.
Ten minutes into the half Whitley were back in the game when Pocklington raced out to try and collect the ball on the left edge of his area. However, it broke for Whitley with both Chow and Ash Davis going for the loose ball. Davis was better placed and rifled his shot high into the net.
Whitley were getting on top now and four minutes later Novak’s powerful shot was pushed wide by Pocklington.
A header from Fawcett was not far off target as Whitley searched for the equaliser.
An incident on the halfway line after 66 minutes resulted in a brief flare up between Aycliffe defender Stuart Owen and Whitley’s Davis.
The outcome was a red card for both players, the Aycliffe man for foul and abusive language, and Davis for his violent reaction.