AFTER starting the league season with an eight-match unbeaten run, Whitley lost their second game in four days when they were beaten by league champions Spennymoor Town on Saturday.
The game was not a great spectacle, especially in the first half when there were few chances created by either side, and the contest will probably be best remembered for a double sending off five minutes before the interval.
However, that should not detract from the fact that Spennymoor were the better team and deservedly came out on top.
Arguably, the crucial difference between the sides was in midfield, where Lewis Dodds was very influential for the home side, whereas Whitley, despite the welcome return of captain Damon Robson and the battling spirit of LeePaul Scroggins, sorely missed the injured Craig McFarlane and Paul Robinson.
Good news for Whitley in the build-up to the game was the return of David Coulson from Blyth Spartans to bolster the defence, whereas a rather surprising omission from the Moors’ side was former Bay defender Leon Ryan, who was not even on the bench.
On a damp afternoon, in front of a big crowd, another former Whitley player, Adam Johnston, hooked the ball over the bar early on.
Initially, Bay responded well as Chris Reid made some good attacking runs down the left and then Brian Smith sent a header from Robson’s free kick beyond the back post.
Moore then headed wide for Spennymoor, but these were rare openings with much of the game being played in midfield.
Midway through the half, Callum Anderson was booked for a strong but seemingly fair challenge on Peacock when he won the ball cleanly. Perhaps the referee was influenced by an earlier tackle by Anderson on Cogdon which looked more worthy of punishment.
Whitley briefly threatened the home goal when Chow saw a shot blocked by Dean and when the ball rebounded to Robson, the keeper again blocked the shot.
Eight minutes before the interval, a ball played upfield from the Spennymoor midfield bounced ahead of Cogdon and with Hayes rushing out to reach the ball, the diminutive Town striker just got to it first, poking the ball over the Bay keeper but well wide of goal.
Inevitably, the players collided and while Hayes remained on his feet, Cogdon fell.
To the astonishment of Hayes and those in the Whitley dugout, who were almost in line with the incident, the referee awarded a penalty.
Having made this decision, the official would have been expected to either caution or send off the Bay keeper but he did neither.
Hayes made a great attempt to save the spot kick but Johnston’s perfect placement into the corner of the net just beat his dive and the home side were in front.
The controversy was far from over as three minutes later, Anderson and Spennymoor’s Stephen Capper wrestled each other for the ball near the touchline in front of the main stand.
Using arms rather than feet, the two stumbled off the pitch and almost into the Bay dugout. When they emerged, Anderson, not surprisingly having already been cautioned, was sent off, but with a red card for violent conduct.
Capper, who was perhaps not so much the aggressor, was also shown red, leaving both sides with ten men. The refereeing was now infuriating both sides.
After the interval, Spennymoor, playing down the slope, began to get on top with some quick breaks from midfield.
Peacock was a constant threat with darting runs and he nearly doubled the lead, shooting wide after Laws had been denied by Hayes.
A second goal was coming and it was not long delayed. With 54 minutes on the clock, Harwood crossed from the right and Graydon’s shot was diverted back across Hayes and into the net by Cogdon.
With Chow and Bell getting little service up front, Whitley responded by bringing on Kerr, perhaps surprisingly left out of the starting 11, and Dale.
Initially, this had little effect as Spennymoor continued to control the game and only a good block by Hayes denied Graydon after he was played though by Peacock.
Whitley went as close as at any stage with Ormston’s shot bringing a scrambling dive from Dean as the ball went just wide of the near post.
Only a great save from Hayes, palming the ball round the post, denied the home side a third goal from Graydon’s free kick before Bell’s header brought a save from Dean.
Substitute Andrews forced Hayes into action again before Bay sub David Pounder saw an effort deflected wide by Mason.
A late flurry by Whitley pushed Spennymoor back on the defensive but despite attempts from Scroggins, Kerr and Pounder they were unable to find a way through a well organised home side, who after a hesitant start to the season are beginning to play with the confidence of champions.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson, Reid, Smith (Kerr 56 mins), Coulson, Williams, Scroggins, Robson (Dale 62 mins), Bell, Chow (Pounder 66 mins), Ormston. Substitutes not used: Timmons, Rowe.