WHITLEY Bay made it five wins out of five this month with an impressive 3-1 win at Guisborough on Saturday.
In recent games the North Tynesiders have rarely come under any real pressure, but it was a different story at the King George V Ground where a rejuvenated Guisborough more than held their own in the opening half of a thoroughly entertaining game.
With the home side level on points with Whitley in the top eight of the table, a closely contested game looked likely, and so it turned out.
Whitley were missing Chris Reid through suspension, giving Craig Smith the chance to make his full debut, having made six substitute appearances so far this season. Also back in the side was striker Ash Davis, replacing Andy Robertson.
A lively opening saw both sides passing the ball well and using the full width of the pitch.
With 11 minutes played, Bay produced an excellent move as Chris Fawcett, running forward from the right side of midfield, chipped the ball over a defender into the path of Paul Robinson, who in turn lobbed it neatly to Paul Chow on the left side of goal. A first time shot might well have brought a goal but the striker took a second touch by which time he had been closed down and the chance had gone.
Guisborough responded with defender Jamie Poole racing away down the right wing before squaring the ball for Adam Gell to drill a low shot beyond the far post.
Whitley took the lead a minute later when Davis played an excellent ball through to Chow just inside the penalty area. With the home side appealing in vain for offside, Chow advanced a few steps and as Ben Escritt came off his line to narrow the angle, he clipped the ball over the keeper into the net from about 12 yards.
This was the third game in succession where Chow has scored an early goal to put Whitley in front, but on this occasion it failed to deter the opposition. Indeed, it seemed to stir the Yorkshiremen into their most impressive period of the game.
Within a minute, Austin Johnston fired a shot just over the Whitley bar, and using pace down both wings, Whitley’s two new full backs, Brad Brooking and James Novak, were given their stiffest tests yet.
Gradually the pressure mounted, and backed by a good size crowd, Guisborough’s midfield gained a degree of control which forced Whitley to defend in depth.
Lewis Wood fired just wide of goal and there were several other good moves by Town.
But ten minutes before the interval, in a quick counter attack, Whitley very nearly increased their lead.
A misplaced pass by a defender across the 18-yard line was seized on by Fawcett, whose shot beat Escritt but clipped the outside of the post.
Guisborough were soon back on the attack and they deservedly equalised after 37 minutes when Luke Bythway fired home after a shot had been blocked and the ball ran loose in front of goal.
The home side enjoyed the majority of possession during the remainder of the half and twice went close, Hayes making an excellent save from the head of Johnston while Bythway’s shot was off target.
After half-time, Whitley made the change that many fans had been predicting, bringing on LeePaul Scroggins, who had been on the bench after recovering from injury, in place of James Fairley in midfield.
They started the second half strongly, with Davis powering through the home defence before tumbling to the ground after tangling with a defender.
A few minutes later, after shrugging off Town captain Bythway, Chow was brought down inside the box when challenged by Jamie Poole. Referee Danny Markham awarded a penalty, a decision that was strongly contested by home players.
Following last week’s two missed penalties against Team Northumbria, Davis was quick to take the ball and claim responsibility for the spot kick. His confidence was justified as he easily beat Escritt with a powerful shot high into the net to restore Bay’s lead.
Any thoughts that Guisborough heads might drop were soon dispelled as the home side battled back in search of a second equaliser.
However, Whitley were much more in control of the game than in the 25 minutes before half-time and Scroggins’ presence was clearly a factor.
The confidence gained in recent games was also evident as the visitors withstood short spells of pressure from the home side.
Davis, not fully fit, was replaced by Denver Morris for the last third of the game, a highly effective move with the tiring Guisborough defenders now struggling to cope with the electric pace of the young substitute.
Catching them by surprise, Morris won possession in midfield before racing clear on goal only to be denied by a fine save from Escritt.
With Guisborough pushing forward they were caught out when a ball played forward was headed on by Chow. Robinson found space on the left before drilling a low shot across Escritt to put Whitley 3-1 ahead.
With 73 minutes played, there was still time for Town to get back in the game but try as they might, they were thwarted by determined and confident defending.
Craig Smith was playing his part, ably supported by Callum Anderson in the centre of defence.
Hayes, in his busiest game for some time, pulled off several excellent saves and despite a late flurry of bookings and a surprising six minutes of added time, Whitley held on for a well deserved win, which saw them move up to fourth place in the table, their highest placing of the season.
Guisborough manager Chris Hardy acknowledged after the game that his team had come up against a ‘very good side who at times were a pleasure to watch’.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Brooking, Novak, Anderson, C Smith, Fairley (Scroggins 46 mins), Fawcett (McMullen 82 mins), Davis (Morris 62 mins), Kerr, Chow, Robinson.