Fawcett goal results in Whitley Bay’s best display of the season

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In what was their best performance of the season, Whitley created a major upset on Saturday by defeating FA Vase holders Spennymoor Town at Hillheads.

The only goal of the game came ten minutes from time from Chris Fawcett.

Second top Spennymoor, beaten only once in their previous 16 league games, could have no complaints about the result as a battling Bay side thoroughly deserved their success.

What made the victory particularly remarkable and impressive was the fact that several first team regulars were missing from the side.

Paul Antony and Chris Reid were both suspended while Craig McFarlane was still out injured.

New father Paul Chow was only named among the substitutes but Callum Anderson was back in the starting 11.

This was the third time the sides had met this season with Spennymoor comfortable winners in the two previous games.

It was hardly surprising therefore that with an under strength side, there was a degree of trepidation among many Bay fans ahead of kick-off.

A strong Moors side could afford to leave out recent signing Andrew Johnson, the league’s top scorer last season, while there was no place even on the bench for former Bay keeper Kyle Hayes.

Wayne Phillips, another former Whitley player in the visitors’ ranks, threatened early on with a free kick from the left but the ball was cleared.

Danger man Gavin Cogden tried to weave his way through the Bay defence several times but could not achieve an end product, and it was at the other end where the first real shot on goal arrived, Alex Kempster breaking through and forcing a save from Peter Jeffries.

Midway through the half, Michael McMullen drew warm applause from the crowd with a volley across the face of goal after a cross from James Novak had been headed into his path.

There was little to choose between the sides in the first half but Spennymoor went close twice in the final minutes, Chris Mason firing over from a tight angle, then captain Daniel Moore headed wide from a Phillips free kick.

The visitors began the second period in more lively fashion and briefly threatened, but Whitley responded well and almost took the lead after 51 minutes when Robbie Nolan crashed a shot off the post after being played through by Fawcett.

The ball was cleared out of play for a corner, taken by Novak, with Leon Ryan threatening with a header.

Soon afterwards, Bay keeper Tom Kindley pushed away a shot from Phillips and few minutes later he made a great one handed save to keep the ball out. Against his former side Leon Ryan was having an excellent game at the heart of the Whitley defence while Craig Smith, enjoying a rare start, also impressed against top quality opponents who were being restricted to half chances, such as when Moors midfielder Joe Walton could not get his header from a left wing cross on target and the ball flew harmlessly over the bar.

With the majority of the action now at the other end Whitley steadily grew in confidence and belief that they could spring a major surprise.

Both McMullen and Kempster showed excellent pace on the wings and were worrying the normally assured Spennymoor defence.

Chow was greeted with cheers as he replaced the hard working Nolan on the hour, and his arrival, together with that of Jarrett Rivers who was returning from injury, injected extra energy into Whitley’s attacking play.

Town’s Keith Graydon was cautioned shortly after coming off the bench as he struggled to deal with Rivers’ pace and trickery.

The decisive moment of the game came with just ten minutes remaining when Whitley were awarded a free kick 20 yards from goal on the right edge of the penalty area.

Novak, often a threat in such circumstances, fired a great shot towards the far post. Keeper Jeffries dived to his right and parried the ball but could not hold it and Fawcett, alert to the situation, pounced to slot the ball over the line from a tight angle.

Chow gleefully rammed the ball into the back of the net but it was Fawcett’s goal and the man who scored in Whitley’s last victory over Spennymoor, more than four years ago, had done it again.

Surprisingly, there was no real threat from Spennymoor in the closing stages and Whitley might have got a second five minutes from time, Chow seeing a shot blocked almost on the line.

Whitley’s victory was made all the more satisfying as they kept a clean sheet, thereby preventing Spennymoor from scoring for the first time in the league this season.

This was a game in which every single Whitley player played a vital part and contributed to what was a memorable victory and the biggest crowd of the season at Hillheads shared the joyous celebrations with the players at the final whistle.

Whitley Bay: Kindley, Brooking, Novak, Smith (Berry 61), Ryan, Anderson, McMullen, Buzzeo (Rivers 68), Nolan (Chow 59), Kempster, Fawcett. Subs not used: Ball, Kallis.