A hat-trick from Adam Shanks, his first for the club, set Whitley Bay on their way to victory as they began their FA Vase campaign at Willington.
The tie could have been settled well before the interval had the visitors taken their chances and shown more discipline in defence.
As it was, they had to endure some anxious moments on a sunny afternoon in County Durham.
Inside the first minute, Whitley attacked down the left and when Alex Kempster played the ball across the face of goal, Sam Norris’s shot from a narrow angle was cleared off the line.
It was looking relatively easy against a shaky looking Willington defence, but in their first attack the hosts took advantage of slack defending when Connor Lowes headed home from a right wing corner.
Ahead after just seven minutes, the Northern League second division hosts could have been two up five minutes later when Adam Burnicle burst through but Andy Jennison saved by blocking the shot.
Almost immediately the sides were level and it was Shanks who got Whitley back on terms from 15 yards with a neatly executed shot.
Shanks was proving the main threat for Whitley and just past the half hour he was held back as he was about to break clear on goal, with Willington defender Chris Storey picking up a yellow card.
Whitley took the lead from a penalty in the 38th minute when keeper Peter Wakefield grappled with Shanks almost on the goal line. Referee David Fitzpatrick immediately spotted the offence and Wakefield was left to pick the ball out of the net after Shanks comfortably beat him from the spot.
Twice in the closing stages of the half Whitley might have extended their lead, firstly when Phil Lumsden clipped the ball over the bar from Mark Bertram’s corner, then Wakefield denied Norris when his shot from a tight angle looked to be going between the keeper and the near post.
Playing up the slope, Willington began the second half brightly and Corey Nicholson tried his luck with a long range shot from out on the right but the ball flew wide of the near post.
Ten minutes after the resumption, Shanks completed his hat-trick with a right footed shot from 22 yards, taking advantage of a goalkeeping blunder by Wakefield, who despite appearing to have the ball covered, allowed it to slip through his hands into the net.
The two-goal lead was short-lived as Willington responded just 60 seconds later when Burnicle found himself in space some 20 yards out and powered home a fine shot that left Jennison with no chance.
Back came Whitley and four minutes later they added their fourth when Kempster powered a close range bullet header past Wakefield from Bertram’s right wing corner.
Finally Whitley began to look in control. Stephen Young, who had replaced Callum Anderson, was playing up front with Shanks and both went close to extending the lead.
Bertram’s free kick saw Wakefield save from Shanks while shortly afterwards, another corner from Bertram caused mayhem in the home goalmouth with both Bay strikers going close.
A fifth goal looked inevitable and it duly came in the 80th minute when the home side failed to defend Chris McDonald’s long throw and Young made the slightest of contact with the ball and it flew into the net past Wakefield.
The goal came just moments after 17-year-old Robbie Williamson had replaced Shanks and the young debutant had an instant impact when he broke through into the left side of the Willington penalty area only to be clumsily tripped by Wakefield, who was duly booked for the offence. Williamson picked himself up and despatched the resultant penalty for one of the quickest debut goals on record.
The victory sees Whitley through to the second qualifying round and a home tie against West Allotment Celtic on Saturday, October 3.
“I’m happy with the result but not the performance” was the comment of manager Paddy Atkinson after the game.
“Yes, we’re through to the next round and we played well for the last 20 minutes, but apart from that, I wasn’t happy with the performance.
“We need a lot more energy from players; it was a 40 per cent performance.
“We got great chances early on but couldn’t put them away. Then one ball over the top seemed to cause us problems.
“I can see some of last year’s bad habits creeping in and I’m not going to allow that to continue.
“We need to raise the standards on and off the field.”
Debutant Williamson, although only on the field for the last 11 minutes, certainly impressed the fans and earned praise from his boss.
Atkinson added: “He did well, just a 17-year-old lad, he’s been training with us, and I like what I’ve seen in training and can tell that the lad’s not fazed by what level of football he’s playing at.”
Whitley Bay: Jennison, Gibson (Day 45), McDonald, Anderson (Young 56), Laws, Lumsden, Norris, Bertram, Shanks (Williamson 79), Richardson, Kempster. Subs not used: Gladstone, Reid.