WHITLEY Bay’s 4-2 win at Newcastle Benfield on Monday night kept them in fourth place but plunged their local rivals deeper into trouble at the other end of the table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.
The visitors made the perfect start when Paul Chow headed home from Paul Robinson’s superbly volleyed right wing cross with barely a minute on the clock.
Then Craig McFarlane’s surging run four minutes later threatened the Benfield goal but he was stopped just outside the penalty area.
Whitley were the better side and Chow was only just beaten to a long ball by Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger who raced out of his area to clear.
However, neither keeper was being unduly tested and Benfield’s only real chance of the first half came after 37 minutes when Stephen Young broke through but fired wide.
As a result, the visitors comfortably held on to their one goal lead at the interval.
Benfield began the second half with greater determination and energy and might have equalised within three minutes only for Bowey to somehow fail to hit the target when clear on goal.
Youngster Lewis Burns fired over the bar for Bay five minutes later, but the home side were getting on top and deservedly drew level after 59 minutes when Young fired past Kyle Hayes.
Whitley responded in the perfect manner, regaining the lead just four minutes later.
Attacking with purpose, Chow crossed from the left and Chris Fawcett was denied at close range by Grainger, but when the ball was cleared Paul Robinson quickly regained possession on the left and his cross gave Fawcett a second chance and he took full advantage, heading firmly past Grainger for his second goal in successive games.
Whitley regained control of the game with Benfield starting to show the greater signs of fatigue from the hectic schedule of fixtures.
For Whitley Bay, Dillon Blake replaced James Fairley just after Fawcett’s goal, so with Kyle Downey and Lewis Burns having made the starting 11, Whitley now had three teenagers on the pitch.
All were making their contribution but it was Blake’s 77th minute goal that particularly caught the eye, suggesting that the 17-year-old could be one for the future.
Running on to a long ball just beyond the halfway line, he outpaced the Benfield defence and showed great composure as he closed in on goal before drilling the ball past the advancing Grainger for his first goal in senior football.
It looked all over for Benfield, but to their credit they kept going and almost pulled a goal back with a shot that crashed off the post.
However, in pushing men forward they left themselves exposed at the back, and after a mix-up in defence, the home side were indebted to Grainger for denying Chow, the experienced keeper spreading himself well to block the ball.
Lee Kerr had come off the bench for the last 15 minutes and he was joined by Liam Harris, another youngster from the reserve team who was making his first appearance for the senior side.
It was Kerr who set up the fourth Bay goal in typical style with a free kick from near the right touch line.
He floated the ball to the edge of the six-yard box where Paul Chow leapt above former Bay midfielder Gary Ormston – Benfield’s captain for the night – to head past Grainger.
Having opened the scoring in the first minute, it appeared that Chow had got the final goal in the last minute, but two minutes into stoppage time, and with virtually the last kick of the game, Brian Dodsworth got a second for the hosts with a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
While it did not affect the outcome of the game, the goal could yet prove important for Benfield should the final relegation place be decided on goal difference.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson, McFarlane, C Smith, Fairley (Blake 63 mins), Downey (Harris 81 mins), Fawcett, Burns, Scroggins, Chow, Robinson (Kerr 75 mins). Subs not used: Robertson, B Smith.