Inspirational Whitley Bay captain Paul Chow further enhanced his legendary status in non league football as he scored all four of his team’s goals as they secured a narrow 4-3 victory at Team Northumbria.
On their three visits to Coach Lane, Whitley have scored seven goals with Chow getting every one of them, and his tally in this game took his total for the season to 18, making him the first division’s top scorer.
With the goals flowing, the crowd of almost 400 fans, including many neutrals from across the country visiting as part of the Northern League’s Newcastle ‘Groundhop’ day, were richly entertained.
Attacking football was certainly the order of the day but both sides were guilty of some poor defending.
Whitley made three changes to the side that earned a draw at Shildon in midweek.
Tom Kindley was unavailable so Jonny Ball took his place in goal. Chris Fawcett and Callum Anderson were back in the side but James Novak, Jarrett Rivers and Craig McFarlane were all missing through injury.
The first goal came with less than seven minutes on the clock, when hesitancy in the Bay defence resulted in the ball looping into the air from a deflection and David Luke was presented with an undefended goal to put the home side in front.
Whitley responded immediately and went close to equalising three times in as many minutes.
Firstly, Alex Kempster had a header put behind for a corner then Chris Reid saw his header pushed off the line by keeper Andrew Jennison before Leon Ryan headed just wide of goal from Paul Antony’s free kick.
Eventually, the pressure paid off when on 15 minutes Chow poked the ball home from eight yards after being played in by Antony.
Barely a minute later, Rob Nolan’s shot crashed off the post as the Team North defence struggled to cope with the continued Whitley attacks.
The home side came back into the game and two minutes later Ball had to be alert to push a goalbound effort wide.
Then with 21 minutes on the clock, Dan Riley burst forward from midfield and with no Whitley player making a challenge he unleashed a shot from 20 yards that beat the dive of Ball and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
Behind for the second time, Whitley were perhaps fortunate to win a penalty five minutes later when a Team North defender was judged to have put out an arm to make contact with Nolan’s cross from the right.
For the second time in four days, Chow confidently despatched the spot kick to put Whitley back on level terms.
There were no further goals before the interval although Whitley nearly took the lead after 38 minutes when Nolan’s shot from the right almost squirmed under Jennison, but with the help of a defender, the keeper managed to push the ball away from goal.
Eight minutes into the second half, Whitley went ahead for the first time in the game when Chow completed his hat trick, being on the spot to slide the ball home from close range from Nolan’s cross into the goalmouth.
The lead was short-lived, however, as once again, Whitley failed to prevent an opponent running through from midfield and this time it was Peter Watling who was given space as he closed in on goal and he clinically slotted the ball home to leave the game in the balance.
Just past the hour, Fawcett played Chow through on the right but after rounding the keeper, he drove the ball wide of goal.
Whitley were now finding more gaps in the home defence and a few minutes later, Brad Brooking’s cross from the right was finished off in style as the irrepressible Chow sent a diving header beyond Jennison for his fourth goal of the game.
With 25 minutes still remaining, the game was far from over and almost immediately Whitley were reminded of that when Watling forced Ball to push a powerful shot over the bar.
However, from that point on, chances became more limited but in the last minute of the 90, Chow might have put the result beyond doubt with a fifth goal but from out on the left, his shot was kept out by substitute Dodds, at the expense of a corner.
The hosts saw a shot hit the post with a stoppage time effort but the danger was cleared and the victory was confirmed just moments later.
The final whistle signalled the end of a game in which Chow, dubbed ‘the silent assassin’ by local radio reporters, was undisputed man of the match, lethal inside the six-yard box but also showing his ability in other areas of the pitch as he won possession to set up attacks and also helped out in defence, an excellent example to the younger players.
Whitley Bay: Ball, Brooking, Anderson, Reid, Ryan, Buzzeo (Kallis 89), Fawcett (C Smith 70), Antony, Nolan (McMullen 77), Chow, Kempster.