WHITLEY Bay are struggling to recapture their best form following the disappointment of their recent FA Vase exit.
On Saturday they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of champions Spennymoor Town in their STL Northern League division one match at Hillheads.
There was an excellent turn out of 582 fans, Whitley’s biggest league attendance of the season so far.
But in a rather low key atmosphere, they had little to cheer as neither side really impressed in what was expected to be an exciting top of the table clash.
Before kick-off there was an impeccably observed one minute’s silence in memory of Pc David Rathband, who was a former assistant referee in theNorthern League, and also for former Whitley Bay player John Ritchie, who was an outstanding defender back in the 1960s.
The subdued tone extended to the game, with few chances created by either side especially during a lacklustre opening half.
In rare openings, Gareth Williams was forced to clear the ball off the line following a Spennymoor attack while at the other end Chris Fawcett headed wide following a good run down the left by Robbie Dale.
Callum Anderson produced a well timed tackle to deny Steven Richardson as he was about to break through then home keeper Kyle Hayes made a good save to deny former Bay striker Adam Johnston.
Dale was causing problems for Jamie Harwood and the defender was booked following a bad challenge.
But too often, Whitley’s final ball into the six-yard box was comfortably dealt with by the Town defence, notably former Hillheads captain Leon Ryan, who was back after a loan period at Crook Town.
After the interval, Spennymoor replaced Harwood with Michael Laws, a move that was to prove significant as the game progressed.
Gradually, the Moors gained the upper hand with Hayes making a fine save to keep out a header from Richardson.
With a lack of height in central defence, Whitley were struggling to deal with set piece moves and this allowed the visitors to win headers which fortunately for Whitley were either directed off target or well saved by Hayes.
However, with an hour played the champions got the crucial goal when substitute Laws got his head to a free kick and although Hayes did well to get his fingers to the ball, he could only push it against the inside of the post and it ended up in the net.
Excellent defending by Anderson and Craig McFarlane denied Spennymoor on several occasions in the later stages of the contest, while at the other end Chow was too often an isolated figure in attack and unable to penetrate the meanest defence in the league.
Dale saw a rare shot on target comfortably saved and the hard working Paul Robinson was off target.
In stoppage time, visiting keeper Robert Dean was for once forced to demonstrate his agility as he pushed a powerful effort from Fawcett over the bar.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Williams, Pounder (McMullen 72 mins), Scroggins (Kerr 68 mins), Ormston, Dale, Fawcett, Anderson, McFarlane, Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Smith, Robson, Timmons.