Stunning first half sees North Shields beat Whitley Bay in derby

Tuesday night’s keenly awaited North Tyneside derby went the way of North Shields thanks to a stunning first half display that saw the Robins score four times in 27 minutes.

Their attacking pace left the home side floundering in front of by far the biggest Northern League crowd of the season.

Despite the inclement weather with strong and gusty winds having replaced afternoon rain, a crowd of 857 fans packed into Hillheads Park and created an excellent atmosphere.

And it was the visiting fans who were celebrating a thoroughly deserved victory long before the final whistle.

Since the late 1980s the fortunes of the Robins have slumped while in marked contrast, Whitley have been the top non league team on North Tyneside, winning the FA Vase on four occasions.

So with North Shields promoted to the top flight of the Northern League this season, this game, the first league meeting of the sides for 26 years, had extra significance.

With the wind at their backs in the first half, Whitley started brightly, showing much greater determination than against Dunston three days earlier.

After just four minutes Robbie Bird played the ball through to Paul Chow who had a great chance to put Whitley in front but his shot was deflected past the post for a corner, from which the Whitley top scorer fired wide of goal.

Four minutes later the ball ricocheted around the Shields six-yard box without any Bay player able to get a telling shot on target.

After their bright opening, Bay were caught napping when a long throw from near the right corner flag reached Ben Richardson, who drove past Dan Gladstone to give the visitors a 17th minute lead.

Chris Reid then had a shot comfortably held by Chris Bannon, but just 90 seconds after going in front, Shields doubled their lead and it was former Bay winger Denver Morris who outpaced the home defence before cutting in from the right to slot the ball past Gladstone to the delight of the travelling fans.

Gladstone then pushed a shot from Gareth Bainbridge over the bar, but on the half hour there was nothing he could do when a quick break out of defence saw the ball played over the Bay centre backs, leaving Bainbridge clear near the halfway line and he raced through on goal before clipping a powerful shot over Gladstone into the roof of the net.

Whitley’s defence was being run ragged and Gladstone was again in action two minutes later, pushing another effort wide.

One minute before the interval came the goal of the game when Kieran Wrightson curled a great shot into the top corner of the net from the left edge of the Bay penalty area.

At 4-0, the game was as good as won and Whitley fans were left fearing humiliation if things continued in the same fashion in the second half.

The introduction of Alex Kempster in place of player-manager Leon Ryan after the break saw Whitley’s midfield strengthened, bringing strikers Peter Watling and Chow more into the game.

After 57 minutes a first time effort from Paul Robinson following a cut back from Craig McFarlane whistled just past the post.

On the hour Morris was substituted and moments later Bainbridge pulled up with a hamstring injury that is expected to leave him sidelined for a month.

Without the speed of these two attacking players, North Shields lost some of their potency and after James Luccock had brought a fine save from Gladstone they understandably seemed content to sit back on their lead, leaving Whitley the opportunity to come more into the game.

After 70 minutes they pulled a goal back through Bird, who fired home from six yards after Watling had twice seen shots blocked but not cleared by the Shields rearguard.

Then a Shields attack on 75 minutes saw the overworked Gladstone pull off a great one handed save to deny substitute Dean Walker.

Two minutes from time Bird was rewarded for his persistence when he slotted home a second Whitley goal after good work from Kempster had set up the opportunity, giving the final score a greater degree of respectability than had seemed likely at half-time.

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, McFarlane, McDonald, Foster, Ryan (Kempster 46), Reid, Bird, Laws, Watling, Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Redford, Godsmark, Potter, Day.

North Shields: Bannon, Wrightson, Lancaster, Coppen, Parker, Hughes, Morris (Holmes 59), Forster, Bainbridge (Walker 60), Richardson (Carr 82), Luccock. Subs not used: McKeown, Robinson.