Goalkeeper Tom Flynn was Whitley Bay’s hero in an exciting and closely contested 1-0 win at Penrith on Saturday.
Playing only his third game since rejoining the club from Durham, he made a series of outstanding saves during the second half to ensure Bay returned home with all three points.
There was little sign of what was to come during a quiet opening to the game.
A 12th minute header from midfielder Jamie Hope flew wide of the target and that was the best Penrith could muster during first half in which Whitley were comfortably the better side.
Chris McDonald, back in the side following suspension, curled a shot just wide in the 17th minute before Stuart Bramley headed over the bar from a left wing corner.
Just before the half hour Adam Shanks played the ball over the home defence to Ash Davis, but he slipped as he broke clear on goal and was denied when Logan made a vital interception, putting the ball behind for a corner.
Jake Fowler’s flag kick was flicked across the face of goal by Alex Kempster to the back post where Shanks drove the ball into the net off the underside of the bar for his 27th goal of the season.
Two minutes later Whitley might have extended their lead when Davis controlled the ball well and from 18 yards and volleyed a fierce shot that keeper Aaron Taylor did well to keep out.
The pressure was all coming from Whitley and a few minutes later McDonald was played clear on the left edge of the penalty area and his perfectly struck shot crashed off the bar with Taylor beaten.
Whitley thoroughly deserved their interval lead but Penrith looked a different side in the second half and immediately showed much more purpose, exemplified by Kevan Connelly, who tried his luck with a long range shot less than three minutes after the restart.
With 56 minutes on the clock, Connelly got a shot on target but Flynn made an excellent save.
Two minutes later Flynn made another crucial save from Penrith captain Grant Davidson, then moments later Connelly’s volley was kept out by the impressive Bay keeper.
Whitley had a great chance to extend their lead just past the hour mark but Davis could not quite get his head to McDonald’s cross and the ball was cleared.
Back down the other end, Connelly drove a cross shot into the side-netting as the Cumbrians continued to battle for the equaliser.
Approaching the final 15 minutes, Shanks was replaced by Chris Youldon and three minutes later, the substitute swung a right wing corner across goal where Callum Anderson almost deceived Taylor as his header crashed off the upright.
With ten minutes remaining, Penrith’s Nathan Waterston was played through on goal only for Flynn to make an outstanding save, pushing the ball round the post.
From the resultant corner, the Cumbrians were awarded a penalty for handball by Steve Gibson, although the Bay players strongly disputed the decision, claiming the ball hit Gibson in the face.
Jordan Little stepped up to take the spot kick but Flynn made a superb save, diving to his left to push the ball away from the bottom corner and beyond the post.
Whitley continued to soak up pressure with Gibson, Bramley and Richard Flynn giving nothing away and Bramley, only recently returned to the side, looking impressive in the centre of defence.
With the game into stoppage time, Flynn made a quite stunning save to push a goalbound shot from Adam Main over the bar, and 60 seconds later he repeated the feat, palming over a well struck volley also from Main.
Another Penrith corner produced drama in the goalmouth as the home side and their fans thought they had finally snatched an equaliser, only to be denied yet again by Flynn who grasped the ball in his hands almost on the goal line.
At the final whistle the Whitley keeper received rapturous applause from the large contingent of travelling Bay fans and warm praise from the Penrith faithful after one of the most impressive goalkeeping displays any of the spectators had witnessed.
Despite victories for Durham and Jarrow Roofing, the win moved Whitley one place up the table and closed the gap on a group of four clubs just above them.
Whitley Bay: T Flynn, McFarlane (Munro 89), McDonald (Prosser 90), Anderson, R Flynn, Bramley, Gibson, Fowler, Shanks (Youldon 74), Davis, Kempster. Subs not used: Gladstone, Day