North Tyneside derby called off 90 minutes before kick-off

A waterlogged goalmouth at Hillheads.
A waterlogged goalmouth at Hillheads.
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The eagerly awaited North Tyneside derby between Whitley Bay and North Shields was called off barely 90 minutes before kick-off on Saturday following a deluge of near biblical proportions.

At 10am the Hillheads Park pitch was perfectly playable, but the heavens opened around midday and an hour later the playing surface was waterlogged with puddles appearing all over the pitch.

Groundstaff battled manfully to clear the water and make the pitch playable, but it was an impossible task and when match referee Barry Gordon arrived at the ground he had no hesitation in calling the match off.

It was hugely frustrating for players and officials of both teams who had arrived at the ground clinging to the hope that the skies would clear and conditions underfoot would improve sufficiently for the game to go ahead.

This latest postponement has added to the problems of rescheduling the vast number of games called off during recent months and means that Whitley will now have to wait another four weeks before playing their first Saturday game at Hillheads since before Christmas.

North Shields will feel equally frustrated, having played just one league game since October.

The Northern League has announced that the derby game will be now be played on Easter Monday, March 28.

With striker Michael Bell on his way to Australia, Whitley Bay’s returning manager Ian Chandler has been active in the transfer market and has brought in another front man, Ryan Noble, whose previous clubs include Sunderland and Hartlepool United.

Also arriving at Hillheads is Consett midfielder Jake Fowler.

Providing the pitch has recovered from Saturday’s downpour, both players will be hoping to be involved in Tuesday evening’s home game against Newton Aycliffe, kick-off 7.45pm.

Aycliffe are enjoying their best season to date and their away form is particularly impressive, so this will be a tough test for Chandler and his side.

On Saturday, Whitley are due to travel to Consett, where the all-weather surface at the Belle View Stadium should guarantee that the game goes ahead, with milder weather forecast for the weekend.

The following Tuesday evening sees Whitley Bay back at Hillheads for a tough game against championship chasing Guisborough Town, with kick-off at 7.45pm.