Bay share points with Crook

A draw was a fair result from Tuesday nights meeting between Whitley Bay and Crook Town, the first time the two sides have met in 13 years.

On a night of firsts, Leon Ryan was in charge of the side for the first time at Hillheads while it was Whitley’s first home game in more than six weeks.

The game got underway at a frantic pace with Crook in particular looking very lively but neither side created many clear cut scoring opportunities, a pattern that was to continue for much of the game.

Experienced keeper Barry Poskett had little to do in the visiting goal during the first half hour, his only anxious moment coming when Callum Anderson found space in an otherwise well organised Crook defence and fired a powerful shot inches past the post in the 25th minute.

At the other end, Adam Nicholls brought a good blocking save from Mark Cook after 31 minutes at the expense of a corner that came to nothing.

A crucial moment in the game came five minutes before half time when a back pass to Cook lacked pace and the keeper was injured as an opponent challenged for the ball.

Following lengthy treatment, he was able to continue but appeared to be in discomfort during the remaining minutes of the half.

Almost out of the blue, Whitley took the lead with a minute of normal time remaining in the opening period.

When the ball was played across field to the right, Michael McMullen quickly controlled the ball before firing a low shot from almost 20 yards into the far corner of the net past a static Poskett.

After seven minutes of added time, the half time whistle finally blew with Whitley holding a narrow advantage.

Six minutes after the restart, Whitley might have doubled their lead when a cross from McMullen reached Callum Hope ten yards out and in front of goal. A first time effort would probably have found the net but he needed a second touch to control the ball giving the Crook defence time to react and his shot was blocked.

Whitley did not have a substitute keeper available so Cook continued in goal but he was clearly restricted in his movement and it was no surprise that Crook repeatedly tested him with high balls into the goalmouth.

A long range effort from Wallace flew over the bar while just before the hour mark, former Bay midfielder Richard Hodgson blazed the ball high over the bar and deep into the neighbouring allotments.

Crook were putting increasing pressure on the Bay defence and deservedly levelled the score after 70 minutes when a free kick from the left by Craig Price deflected off a Bay head and with Cook unable to reach to collect the ball it left Adam Nicholls at the back post with a the simplest of finishes.

Some strong challenges by the visitors were going unpunished and several Bay players picked up knocks.

Lewis Burns and Jarrett Rivers were brought off the bench for the last 17 minutes to freshen up Whitley’s attacking options and the lively Rivers posed a real threat to the Crook defence.

A neat through ball from Paul Chow gave the youngster a chance which he fired narrowly wide of goal while a cross from McFarlane saw Anderson hook the ball over the bar.

It had been a game played at a fast pace but lacking in goal scoring opportunities, thanks to a large extent to well organised defending by both sides. For Whitley, Chris McDonald again looked very impressive at left back while Craig McFarlane, now nearing his 250th appearance for the club, gave an assured performance.

Leon Ryan was happy with the point gained and he, along with Chris Reid, now having completed his two match suspension, and Tomi Ameobi, should all be available to strengthen the squad for this weekend’s trip to Penrith.