A goal from the Northern League first division’s top scorer Paul Chow midway through the first half was enough to give Whitley Bay a well deserved victory at Newton Aycliffe.
And the three points lifted them up to sixth place in a tightly packed top half of the table.
The visitors started strongly and went close after five minutes following good play down the right when Craig McFarlane’s pass found Brad Brooking, whose cross into the six-yard box was put just wide of the far post by Chow.
Aycliffe defender Dan Mitton came to his side’s rescue in the 11th minute, hooking the ball off the line when Paul Robinson’s curling shot from out on the left looked destined for the net.
Moments later, keeper Will Jones denied Ryan Redford as Whitley continued in the ascendency.
The home side were posing no real threat to the Bay goal and keeper Dan Gladstone had little to do at this stage of the game.
Bay then twice went close in the space of a minute, firstly when Michael Laws rose unchallenged to head narrowly wide from a Robinson corner, then Redford took the ball round Jones but failed to get enough power on his shot and the chance was lost.
Whitley’s persistence paid off after 24 minutes when Callum Anderson, back in the side after missing the midweek defeat to Ashington, won the ball in midfield and slotted a defence splitting pass through to Chow who raced clear before drilling home his 11th goal of the season.
Just past the half hour, Brooking, who was playing an attacking wing back role, received the ball from Robinson before setting up Chow for a chance but his shot was blocked at the expense of a corner.
In a rare Aycliffe attack, Zak Boagey tried his luck from distance but his shot, already drifting wide, took a deflection off Robinson leaving Gladstone untroubled.
Two minutes before the interval, the home side’s new signing Chris Dickenson found space on the right but his angled shot flew over the bar.
With Anderson winning virtually every challenge in the centre of the park and Laws commanding at the back, the visitors looked comfortably in control and early in the second half they might have made the game safe when Chow controlled a high ball and volleyed a powerful shot at goal from 12 yards but Jones did well to push it just over the bar.
Ten minutes later, Craig McFarlane cut in from the right and went past two defenders before unleashing a great shot that went just the wrong side of goal and into the side-netting.
At the midway point of the half, Chris Reid, injured during pre-season, made his long awaited return to the side, coming off the bench for the last quarter of the game to replace the hard-working Redford, who had created several half chances earlier in the contest.
Whitley continued to search for the second goal that would have put the game beyond Aycliffe, and Marc Ellison saw a shot on target blocked after 73 minutes.
Two minutes later, Robinson drove narrowly wide after the home side conceded a free kick centre field just inches outside the penalty area.
Leon Ryan came on for Chow and played the striker’s role for the final ten minutes, causing some consternation in the Blues’ rearguard, but with time running out, there were a few anxious moments at the other end as the home side threw players forward in a late attempt to rescue a point.
However, Whitley defended in depth and in a quick breakaway, McFarlane outpaced the Aycliffe defence only to be cynically tripped just outside the right corner of the penalty area by Scott Oldfield, who was promptly sent off by referee Chris Keightley.
In what turned out to be the last action of the game, the free kick that followed the dismissal saw Leon Ryan head just over the bar from Robinson’s ball into the goalmouth.
Despite failing to capitalise on all their chances, there were plenty of positives for Whitley to take from this victory, notably keeping a clean sheet for only the second time this season and the return from injury of last season’s player of the year Reid.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, McDonald, Ellison, Laws, Smith, McFarlane, Anderson, Redford (Reid 68), Chow (Ryan 80), Robinson. Subs not used: Cook, Harris, Berry.