Defensive frailties and wasted chances haunting Whitley Bay

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Whitley Bay’s fourth league defeat of the season leaves them rooted to the foot of the table and without a point to their name.

Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Crook Town was a similar story to most of their previous games, starting brightly but failing to take their chances before fading badly after conceding the first goal.

Defensive frailties were evident again, and although Craig McFarlane made a welcome return, Callum Anderson was missing while three other defenders were still unavailable.

Following their promotion as second division champions last season, Crook have started the campaign strongly with impressive victories over Shildon and Dunston, but it was Whitley who dominated the early stages of Saturday’s contest, having much the better of the first quarter of the game.

Inside the first two minutes, Paul Chow was played through on goal and with the Crook defence appealing in vain for an offside flag, he was denied by keeper Barry Poskett who blocked his shot.

Playing some neat football, Whitley pegged Crook back in their own half but failed to get another shot on target until the 15th minute when Poskett saved from Ryan McGorrigan.

Crook began to make an impression on the game midway through the half and former Bay midfielder Richard Hodgson went close with a shot across goal after 24 minutes before Adam Nichols tested Jonny Ball with a low shot that the Bay keeper saved comfortably.

The visitors wasted an excellent chance after 36 minutes when Watson’s ball set up Ash Davis but he blazed his shot high over the bar.

It began to look as if the first half would end goalless but three minutes before the break a rash challenge from Paul Antony just inside the left corner of the 18-yard box handed the home side a penalty.

Hodgson stepped up and sent Ball the wrong way from the spot to put Crook in front.

Things might have got worse for Bay in stoppage time when they almost conceded a second goal, but Warren Byrne was denied at close range by a combination of blocks from McFarlane and Ball.

McGorrigan had picked up an injury during the opening period and was replaced by Dillon Blake after the interval.

An early attack saw Jarrett Rivers’ cross put wide by Chris Fawcett, but Crook quickly regained control and when play switched to the other end, it needed a double save from Ball to prevent a second goal.

However, Whitley’s relief was short lived as slack marking inside the six-yard box allowed Warren Byrne space to head home Craig Price’s corner.

Whitley continued to create but waste chances, with Antony and Davis guilty of missing opportunities to reduce the arrears.

That said, Crook were also wayward in their finishing as they repeatedly put pressure on the visitors’ makeshift defence but failed to capitalise.

An increasingly disjointed Bay performance saw Crook comfortably control the remainder of the game as the genial and good humoured keeper Poskett had little difficulty in keeping a clean sheet, his one real save of the half being to push wide a shot from Davis.

The third Crook goal certainly had an element of good fortune when a needlessly conceded free kick was played through a crowded penalty area and Ball dived to push the ball away. However, it rebounded off the legs of Craig Hughes into the net and while the Crook substitute was in the right place he knew little about what had happened until the ball was in the net.

It rounded off a dismal afternoon for Whitley, who can at least look forward to the return of their absent defenders in time for next Saturday’s game at Billingham Town, who have also lost their first four games and head Whitley only on goal difference.

Whitley Bay: Ball, Rivers, Watson, (Perry 80 mins), McFarlane, Ryan, Tait, Fawcett, Antony, Davis, Chow, McGorrigan (Blake 45 mins). Subs not used: C Smith, B Smith, Downey.