Kempster strike sees Whitley Bay beat West Auckland in League Cup

Alex Kempster celebrates scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game as Whitley Bay beat West Auckland in the Brookes Mileson Memorial League Cup.
Alex Kempster celebrates scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game as Whitley Bay beat West Auckland in the Brookes Mileson Memorial League Cup.

An outstanding team performance saw Whitley Bay upset the odds to reach the last eight of the League Cup with victory over FA Vase semi-finalists West Auckland.

It was a result that few would have predicted with the home side on the crest of a wave having beaten Dunston four days earlier to become the region’s only survivors in this season’s Vase competition.

West opted to make wholesale changes from the side that won that game while Whitley were unable to field four of the team that won at Penrith at the weekend.

Callum Anderson and Stephen Buzzeo were both injured while two of Saturday’s goalscorers, Tony Stephenson and Callum Hope, were cup tied.

Thomas Bott, whose transfer from Billingham Synthonia was completed earlier in the day, made his Bay debut alongside the returning player manager Leon Ryan in defence.

Playing down the slope, Auckland started strongly and pinned Whitley back in the opening stages.

Chris Reid picked up an early booking following which Mark Cook made an excellent diving save at the expense of a corner, which in turn resulted in a header flying over the bar.

There were anxious moments for the visitors on 17 minutes Cook raced fully 30 yards out of goal to attempt a clearance, but as several players converged on the ball, the Bay keeper brought down an on-rushing opponent.

Memories of red cards on recent visits to West Auckland flooded back, but referee Craig Dean opted to caution the Whitley keeper rather than send him off.

Whitley began to get a foothold in the game and after 23 minutes a perfect cross from Craig McFarlane out on the right gave Paul Chow the chance to put Whitley in front but his header went inches over the bar with keeper Oliver Simpson beaten.

Five minutes later it was the turn of the West keeper to be penalised, and like Cook at the other end, he must have feared seeing red after he tripped Chow just outside the penalty area, but once again the referee showed leniency and only cautioned the young keeper.

The resultant free kick gave Whitley an excellent chance but Chris Reid drove the ball wide.

The home side continued to pose a threat and after 35 minutes Garthwaite cut inside a defender but fired wide, then another attempt on goal looked to be creeping inside the top corner but was narrowly off target, hitting the outside of the stanchion.

The crucial moment of the game came just two minutes before half-time.

Whitley were beginning to pose problems with their wing play and when Michael McMullen played the ball wide to Chris McDonald on the left, his ball forward reached Jarrett Rivers. Racing away down the wing he got in front of the Auckland defence and crossed into the goalmouth where Alex Kempster produced a superb first time finish from close range .

It was a quality goal worthy of winning any game, but with 45 minutes still to play, Whitley knew that they still had a lot to do if they were to pull off a shock result.

Not surprisingly, Auckland put Whitley under a lot of pressure when the second half got under way and McFarlane was penalised not far outside the Bay area for a foul which gave the home side a free kick in a dangerous position.

However, the threat was comfortably dealt with by a confident looking Whitley rearguard.

Just before the hour, Ashley Coffey brought a good save from Cook, whose handling of the ball was exemplary.

With 25 minutes remaining, in a bid to turn the game around, West Auckland made a triple substitution, bringing on their two lethal strikers Mattie Moffatt and John Campbell as well as midfielder Robbie Briggs, a trio who have scored more than 50 goals between them this season.

It looked as if Whitley would be put under severe pressure, but with Ryan, Reid and Bott dealing admirably with the succession of high balls into the box, the home side were allowed few shots on goal, and as they pressed forward there was always the chance of a Whitley breakaway.

Immediately after coming off the bench, Brad Brooking almost got a second for Whitley as he chased a long ball downfield, just getting a touch ahead of Simpson, who was relieved to see the ball rebound wide of the unguarded goal.

On an impressive debut, Bott showed his versatility by breaking forward more than once to support attacking moves as Whitley sought to take the pressure off their defence.

A West free kick nearly caught them out but Cook managed to parry the ball before pushing it away to safety.

The home side were becoming increasingly frustrated as their attacks were broken down by resolute defending and well placed clearances, and with ten minutes left, Whitley might have sealed victory with a second goal when in a quick break downfield McMullen burst through but his effort was blocked.

In marked contrast to recent games between the sides, neither Moffatt nor Campbell managed to make a telling contribution, and after comfortably negotiating four minutes of added time, Whitley were able to celebrate a memorable victory as they condemned the home side to a rare defeat.

Whitley Bay: Cook, McFarlane, McDonald, Bott, Ryan, Reid, Rivers (Brooking 74), Ameobi, McMullen (Smith 90), Chow, Kempster. Subs not used: Robertson, Burns, Day.