For the first time this season Whitley Bay were able to field a near full strength side and it showed in their performance as they ran out comfortable winners over last season’s league runners-up Celtic Nation.
Callum Anderson and Craig Smith had recovered from injury and both made important contributions while there was a far stronger looking substitutes’ bench than in recent weeks.
Whitley started well and dominated the opening exchanges with Anderson getting a shot on target with only 90 seconds on the clock.
The Cumbrians were struggling to get the ball out of their own half and it looked only a matter of time before Whitley scored as they mounted a series of attacks.
A cross from Brad Brooking resulted in a shot from Paul Chow being deflected behind for a corner, and the lively opening continued with Peter Watling pressurising the Celtic Nation defence.
Former Whitley winger Dean Douglas created the first threat for the visitors after 17 minutes as he twisted his way past opponents on the left edge of the Bay penalty area but his ball into the goalmouth was headed behind by Michael Laws.
Armstrong then closed in on goal bringing a good save from Mark Cook at the expense of a corner as Nation began to impose themselves on the game.
Whitley went close after 32 minutes when Chow escaped his marker to send a glancing header narrowly wide of the target from Alex Kempster’s free kick.
A long throw from Chris McDonald almost caught out the Carlisle side five minutes before the break as Laws was given space to get in a header which went only inches past the post.
Finishing the half strongly, Whitley threatened again in the final minute of the 45 but Chow headed over the bar from Robbie Bird’s well flighted cross.
Although there was no score at half-time, Whitley were creating enough chances to suggest that they could go on to win the game.
And so it turned out as they took charge in the second period as the visitors faded.
A blocked effort from Luke Miller was all the Cumbrians had to show before Kempster provided Watling with a chance eight minutes after the restart but the striker could not find the target.
Nation’s defence was finally breached after 58 minutes when they failed to take heed of the warning given by McDonald in the first half.
From level with the edge of the 18-yard box, his long throw-in from the left was met by Leon Ryan whose powerful and well directed header left keeper Andrew Casson helpless as it flew into the far corner of the net.
The goal lifted Whitley and only four minutes later McDonald again caused panic in the Nation defence, this time with a free kick that was eventually put behind for a corner.
Pouring forward in numbers, Whitley extended their lead after 66 minutes when Bird crossed from the right and Kempster drilled an unstoppable shot past Casson from 15 yards.
Substitute Marc Ellison nearly added a third a few minutes later but could not get enough power on Kempster’s dangerous ball into the goalmouth.
The threat from Whitley was growing with Anderson winning the ball with strong tackles then distributing it accurately, a feature missing in games during his absence
Kempster was also increasingly influential, finding space on the wing and repeatedly getting past his marker before supplying the strikers with opportunities that had been lacking earlier in the season.
Watling was unlucky when a cross-shot was only just held by Casson, but with ten minutes left his persistence brought about the third goal.
Latching onto a through ball from Laws, he took the ball round the keeper where Chow needed no invitation to slot the ball home, taking the ball almost off the toes of his strike partner as he did so.
There was no way back into the game for the Cumbrians and Watling might finally have got on the score sheet with four minutes remaining but his shot was narrowly off target.
This was a confidence boosting performance which lifted Whitley into mid-table with games in hand on a number of the sides above them and sent the home fans in the 390 strong crowd happy with their side’s performance.
Whitley Bay: Cook, Brooking (Ellison 50), McDonald, Anderson, Ryan, Smith, Bird (Godsmark 78), Laws, Watling, Chow, Kempster.