STRIKER Robbie Dale made a surprise appearance for Whitley Bay FC on Saturday and made an immediate impact.
The 27-year-old had been surprisingly released by Blyth Spartans the previous day and Bay manager Ian Chandler took the opportunity to see him in action before signing him earlier this week on a two-year deal.
And the former fans’ favourite at Croft Park certainly impressed as he scored two goals in a 3-3 draw.
The entertaining game was Bay’s third pre-season friendly against a former FA Vase winning side – this time AFC Fylde.
Whitley came from two goals down to earn the draw at a sun drenched Hillheads Park.
Under their former name of Kirkham and Wesham, the visitors from Lancashire won the trophy in 2008, since when Whitley have dominated the competition.
Chandler used the game to trial potential new signings, and along with Dale, another triallist, Declan McAvoy, was on the scoresheet.
Whitley began well and Craig McFarlane tested visiting keeper Danny Macdonald as early as the third minute.
A good three man move involving Paul Chow, Dale and Paul Robinson ended with the latter’s shot being well saved as Whitley looked the more dangerous side.
However, it was Fylde who went ahead after 17 minutes when Allen’s through ball put Dave Swarbrick clear and he rounded Kyle Hayes before slotting the ball home.
Whitley responded well and six minutes later they were level when Dale showed excellent control before cleverly chipping the ball over Macdonald.
The visitors began to get on top thanks to some quick and accurate passing, but Gareth Williams and Callum Anderson, together with midfielders Gary Ormston and McFarlane were prominent as Whitley held off their higher ranked opponents.
Chow gave McFarlane another chance but he fired wide, then Whitley had a narrow escape when Allen’s shot crashed off the post.
Two minutes before the break Fylde regained the lead thanks to a well struck free kick by Joe Booth, whose shot beat the dive of Hayes and clipped the inside of the post on its way into the net.
Three minutes into the second half the Evo-Stick First Division North side increased their lead following an excellent move which saw Allen race clear of the Bay defence and beat Hayes.
Almost immediately Robinson chipped a shot just inches over the bar from 20 yards out.
Chandler made three more substitutions, replacing Chow, Robson and Anderson with Michael McMullen, new signing Kyle Downey, and McAvoy.
The visitors also made a series of changes as the half progressed but it was Whitley’s new faces who made the greater impact.
McAvoy reduced the deficit after 61 minutes with a back post header that looped over the keeper and into the net following a cross from the left.
After a quick break upfield by Rob Wilson was thwarted when Hayes blocked the ball bravely, Whitley drew level with 16 minutes to go, and it was Dale, in the right place at the right time who slid the ball home from close range after McAvoy’s cross from the left was not cut out by the defence.
Hayes spread himself well to block another shot by the visitors before making way for substitute keeper Graham Pickering.
A great individual effort by Dale almost produced a late winner for Whitley but Fylde almost had the last word when the dangerous Swarbrick chipped the ball just over.
A draw was probably a fair result with Fylde’s pace and accurate passing testing Whitley to a much greater extent than the previous week’s former Vase winners Whitby.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson, McFarlane, Scope, Ormston, Williams, Pounder, Robson, Dale, Chow, Robinson. Subs used: Gibson, Downey, McAvoy, McMullen, Pickering.