FOLLOWING their comfortable 4-0 win at Guisborough on Wednesday night, Whitley Bay travelled down the A19 again on Saturday and returned from Norton & Stockton Ancients with a well deserved victory.
Two goals in the first 11 minutes put Bay on course for victory over a Norton side that started the game just one point behind them in fifth place in the table.
Whitley began the game where they left off at Guisborough, attacking down the wings and troubling the home defence with low balls into the goalmouth, making life difficult for defenders.
Robbie Dale mesmerised the Norton defence with some characteristic close control, weaving his way past several amber shirted defenders before sliding the ball across the goalmouth.
His shot may have been heading for the net but Paul Chow was taking no chances and diverted the ball past keeper Jim Provett from close range.
The goal came with barely four minutes on the clock and gave Whitley the perfect start to a potentially tricky game.
After Andrew Campbell’s header was saved by Kyle Hayes at the other end, Bay were back on the attack, and when Norton were penalised for a foul some 25 yards from goal out on the right, David Pounder’s free kick was headed on by Phill Bell to Chow who sent an unstoppable shot past the keeper from about eight yards.
With Craig McFarlane making his comeback following injury, Whitley had more pace when breaking from defence and they were causing problems for Norton with almost every attack.
However as the half progressed they were pushed back as the home side came more into the game.
Hayes made a fine diving save to push a free kick from Mulligan past the post and when Campbell burst through, Hayes again made a vital save.
Shortly before the interval, Scott was denied by Hayes but almost on the half-time whistle, Darren Mowbray pulled a goal back for Norton from Mulligan’s right wing corner.
McFarlane’s first game back was understandably restricted to 45 minutes and after the interval he was replaced by Lee Kerr.
Unfortunately, the game degenerated into a scrappy and rather niggly affair and there was a brief flare up after Norton’s Andrew Harbron was booked for a challenge on Bell, who reacted to the incident by being cautioned himself shortly afterwards.
Norton’s David Alderson was involved in a heavy challenge with keeper Hayes.
The referee took no action against the player but instead called both captains together in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
Both Alderson and Bay’s Bell were substituted to avoid them receiving further punishment, but there were further bookings for players from both sides.
Eventually, the game calmed down and the football became more constructive.
A Pounder free kick saw David Coulson head the ball just over the bar before Norton sub Gary Barnes brought a diving save from Hayes.
Whitley could have made the game safe with 15 minutes left when Dale was played clear on goal but rather than lobbing the advancing Provett, he tried to take the ball round the keeper who forced it wide for a corner.
It was another piece of close control by Dale in the 90th minute that set up the crucial third goal when the Bay striker was brought down as he tried to take the ball past three defenders.
Kerr’s free kick was blocked by Provett but the keeper could not hold the ball and it rebounded into the path of Damon Robson who put it into the empty net.
There was no way back for Norton and Whitley deservedly brought home the three points and consolidated their place in the top four.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, McFarlane (Kerr 45 mins), Pounder, Ormston, Coulson, Reid, Scroggins, Robson, Dale, Chow (Reay 77 mins), Bell (Rowe 56 mins).