Dunston deserve narrow win over Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay's Marc Ellison on the attack against Dunston UTS
Whitley Bay's Marc Ellison on the attack against Dunston UTS
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In a game of few chances, a goal nine minutes before half time proved decisive as Dunston edged the game between the only two current Northern League sides who have tasted FA Vase glory at Wembley.

Whitley Bay’s Michael Laws was up against one his former sides while Dunston included two former Bay Vase winners in David Coulson and Gary Ormston.

In changes from the side that beat South Shields the previous week, Peter Watling and Chris Reid returned to the starting line-up after recovering from injury, but few would have predicted their inclusion would see Paul Chow, the division’s top scorer, and defender Chris McDonald, both on the bench.

Whitley had the first chance in the third minute when Robbie Bird picked up a loose ball midway inside the Dunston half and played it through to Watling whose shot was saved by keeper Liam Connell.

Not long after, Watling tried his luck with a long range shot that cleared the bar.

The game then settled into an evenly contested midfield affair with the sides largely cancelling each other out and with neither goalkeeper being tested.

Lee McAndrew, who recently returned to Dunston after a short spell at Spennymoor, created the home side’s first real attack with a cross from the left on the quarter hour, but with Andrew Bulford waiting at the back post, Laws comfortably headed the ball behind.

Paul Robinson went close for Whitley with a rasping 20-yard shot that flew inches past the post after 24 minutes.

Three minutes later Dunston responded with Ormston’s through ball setting Nicky Kane clear but Craig McFarlane made a well timed challenge to win the ball and prevent a shot on goal.

It came as something of a surprised when after 37 minutes largely devoid of goalmouth action, Dunston scored with what was their first shot on target.

A long ball downfield from Connell was played into the path of Bulford, who laid it off to McAndrew on the left edge of the 18-yard box, and after advancing a few paces he drove the ball across Dan Gladstone and into the far corner of the net.

The goal roused the home side who then created two more openings before the interval.

Firstly, Kane brought an excellent diving save from Gladstone, who pushed a close range shot onto the post, and then Bulford went past Laws but was denied by the Bay keeper who parried then gathered the ball.

Dunston began the second half with Bulford again testing Gladstone, but after 55 minutes, a surging run by Marc Ellison was ended when Coulson tripped the Bay midfielder just outside the 18-yard box. The resultant free kick so nearly brought the equaliser, Robinson’s shot grazing the frame of the goal with Connell beaten.

After withstanding a period when Dunston controlled proceedings, Whitley had another chance in the 73rd minute when McFarlane broke forward and played the ball through to Bird whose shot flew just wide of the target.

Five minutes later, Dunston might have sealed victory but Michael Dixon headed over a gaping goal after Bulford crossed from the right.

Whitley needed some extra impetus in the closing stages if they were to rescue a point but there were only six minutes left on the clock when Chow finally came off the bench.

His introduction did put greater pressure on the home defence but with Coulson and his new team-mates looking solid and assured, Whitley struggled to find a way through.

As they pushed men forward and with Reid attacking down the left, they did at last pose more of a threat, and when the ball bobbled around the home penalty area, several shots were blocked but an offside flag ended the threat.

Bulford fired high over the bar at the other end after referee Chris Ellis played advantage following a foul 20 yards from goal while Whitley’s final attempt was a shot off target from Laws.

The game was far from a classic with neither side at their best, but it was Dunston who deservedly came out on top.

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, Reid, Ellison (Chow), Laws, Smith, McFarlane, Anderson, Watling (Godsmark 59), Robinson, Bird. Subs not used: Redford, Harris, McDonald.