A SUPERB first half performance by Whitley Bay in the FA Vase swept aside the challenge of Bridlington Town, who until last week were leaders of the Northern Counties East League.
The East Yorkshire side have scored more than 50 league goals this season and were on a lengthy unbeaten run.
However, the winners of the prestigious trophy for the last three seasons dumped the visitors out the competition with four first half goals.
The home side were dealt a blow before kick-off when they were forced to select from a squad without Craig McFarlane through injury and Callum Anderson who was unwell.
Both were key players in the win in the previous round against Tadcaster.
Robbie Dale recovered from the injury that kept him out of the previous week’s game at Bishop Auckland.
On a bright but cold and breezy afternoon, the visitors had the better of the early play and created two good chances in the opening minutes.
First Josh Greening struck the top of the bar with a shot after four minutes, the attempt appearing to catch the Bay defence by surprise.
Kyle Hayes then had to dive full length to push away a good effort from leading scorer Craig Hogg after he had burst through on goal.
When Bay finally settled they quickly took control.
And inevitably it was Paul Chow who made the breakthrough.
Receiving a ball from Dale some 25 yards from goal, he appeared to lose control before regaining possession before firing a tremendous shot over the keeper to give Whitley a 15th minute lead.
This was the 12th consecutive Vase tie in which he has scored.
Dale was proving a thorn in the side of the visitors with penetrating balls from out on the left and a few minutes later, his free kick was headed behind by a defender, leading to a corner from which Paul Robinson fired the ball across the face of goal.
Lee Kerr drilled just wide following a long throw from the right as Whitley stayed on top and with the pressure building on the Bridlington defence, they went further ahead when Chris Fawcett’s low cross from the right was poked into his own net just inside the near post by defender Wayne Aziz as keeper Mark Wilberforce desperately tried to get his hands to the ball.
A quick break upfield was a reminder to Whitley of the threat posed by Hogg as the Bridlington striker broke clear, but he failed to get his shot on target.
In Whitley’s next attack, Robinson headed narrowly over from Dale’s free kick, then shortly afterwards, David Pounder rounded off a flowing move with a shot that Wilberforce pushed over the bar.
Eight minutes before half-time, Kerr was tripped on the right of the Bridlington penalty area and Chow took the resultant spot kick, easily beating the keeper to put Whitley three up.
Barely a minute later, with Whitley now in full flow, a foul on the left by the struggling visiting defence gave Dale the chance to float another free kick to the back post and David Coulson powered a header into the net for Whitley’s fourth goal.
Dale continued to cause havoc and two minutes later his ball found Chow about 12 yards from goal but this time the keeper got out to block his header.
Dale then tested Wilberforce with a fierce effort from 25 yards but the overworked keeper made the save.
A moment of slack defending by Whitley shortly before the half-time gave Aziz the chance to atone for his earlier own goal as he stole in unmarked to head home from a free kick and raise the spirits of the Yorkshiremen.
The second half saw Bridlington have much more possession, and in an attempt to turn the game around, they brought on recent signing Frank Belt, while Whitley replaced Chow with Chris Reid in a substitution which resulted a few positional changes.
Just before the hour Whitley thought they had a fifth when Pounder fired home from a free kick only for it to be ruled out by an offside flag.
Robinson hobbled off with 20 minutes to go after taking a knock, Gary Ormston taking his place in midfield.
While Town were more in the game, they were unable to create any significant threat to the Whitley goal, with the Bay defence on top and LeePaul Scroggins in particular nullifying their attack.
Whitley seemed content to maintain their comfortable lead, but with 13 minutes to go Fawcett saw a goal bound shot deflected over the bar.
Pounder’s right wing corner which followed was not cut out by the Bridlington defence and Coulson took full advantage, sending a looping header back across goal over the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Brian Rowe then replaced Fawcett who had picked up an injury and Whitley comfortably played out the remainder of the game with Coulson almost completing a hat-trick of headers with an effort that was only inches off target.
If Whitley can repeat this quality of performance, the chances of continuing their amazing run of success in the competition look increasingly bright.
But in the weeks before the next round in January, they will have to contend with injuries and suspensions which will test the depth of the squad.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Scroggins, Robinson (Ormston 71 mins), Dale, Coulson, Pounder, Fawcett (Rowe 79 mins). Robson, Williams, Chow (Reid 54 mins), Kerr. Subs not used: Kindley, Smith.