Paul Chow scored four times as Whitley Bay overwhelmed bottom-of-the-table Crook Town 7-0 on Saturday, to record their biggest win for more than two years.
In more than 50 years of visits to the Millfield Ground, this was by far Whitley’s most decisive victory and what makes it all the more impressive is that this success was achieved with a severely depleted squad.
After a week of poor weather, the pitch was certainly playable but conditions were not conducive to an accurate passing game and the ball often went astray, especially during the opening stages.
With a new manager taking charge of their side for the first time, Crook were expected to raise their game and provide a real test but it took just five minutes for Whitley to break down the home defence.
Perhaps inevitably, it was Robbie Bird, who joined Whitley from Crook in the summer, who headed home from close range after keeper Ryan Graham parried but could not hold a shot from Peter Watling.
For a while, play became rather scrappy with few clear-cut chances, although Whitley looked comfortably the better side, and Dan Gladstone was not seriously tested in the Bay goal.
Young defender Ryan Keltie, who made his debut earlier in the week in the dramatic 5-3 win against Newcastle Benfield, was coming forward in support for set-pieces and his height gave Whitley’s attack an extra dimension. Indeed, it was he who set up the second goal after 31 minutes when he cut in from the right and his strong shot was not held by Graham, with the loose ball falling perfectly for Peter Watling who rifled it home from six yards.
It was all looking very easy for Whitley but at this stage they seemed content just to retain their lead and with few further chances created, there was no addition to the score before the interval.
Three minutes into the second half, Chris Reid headed narrowly wide from a David Berry corner while after 59 minutes, in a rare threat to the Bay goal, Gladstone saved low down from Wyn Fremlin. Determined defending by Crook was restricting Whitley’s opportunities with few shots on target and the game needed something to lift it and warm the fans on what was a dull and dank afternoon. Little had been seen of Paul Chow but after 62 minutes, he headed narrowly over the bar from Berry’s corner.
That was just a warm-up for what was to follow, as he really brought the game to life with a hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes. With 65 minutes played, as he has done so often over the years, he conjured a goal out of nothing, turning on the edge of the penalty area and curling a shot just inside the near post. If that goal lit up his afternoon, it also seemed to deflate the Crook side who wilted under the pressure that was to follow.
After a header flew just wide of goal, Chow doubled his tally in the 71st minute, when a wayward back pass was seized on by Watling, who squared for his strike partner to slot into an empty net.
From the restart, Whitley went straight on the attack and Andrew Mogwa had to head the ball off the line to prevent another when Bird, closing in on goal, was brought down by a challenge from Bryson.
Chow sent Graham the wrong way from the spot to complete his hat trick and leave Crook reeling under the sudden onslaught that had given Whitley a 5-0 lead.
There was to be no easing up and just three minutes later the home goal had a lucky escape when Watling fed the ball to Chow and his shot hit the outside of the post with Graham well beaten.
With just eight minutes left, the game suddenly flared up when Crook’s Corey Nicholson, who had already been cautioned, brought down Keltie with a dangerous tackle just outside the Bay penalty area. After the situation had been calmed down, Nicholson was dismissed, as was Whitley’s Steve Foster for his reaction to the tackle.
The action was still far from over and in the last minute of the 90, Watling’s ball from the right across the face of goal was met by Chow for an easy tap-in, which gave him his fourth goal in the space of just 25 minutes and his 18th of the season.
Deep into stoppage time, Robbie Bird completed the rout when he cut in from the left and drove the ball past Graham for the seventh goal of the afternoon.
This was Whitley’s fourth consecutive victory, during which time they have scored 19 goals, and it sets them up nicely for the tricky FA Vase Third Round tie at home to Dunston UTS on Saturday, when they will also have a stronger squad available.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Keltie, Berry (Day 87mins), Redford, Foster, Reid, Godsmark, Ellison, Watling, Chow, Bird.
Referee: Lucy May.
Sent off: Foster.