Whitley Bay battle back from two down to earn a point

Robbie Bird, far left, scores Whitley Bay 's equaliser at Penrith.

Robbie Bird, far left, scores Whitley Bay 's equaliser at Penrith.

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Whitley Bay fought back from two goals down to earn a draw at Penrith on Saturday.

In truth, the visitors went close to taking all three points as they finished the stronger of the two sides.

Player-manager Leon Ryan returned to the side for his first game of the season, alongside his assistant Steve Foster in the centre of defence, while summer signing Peter Watling made his debut.

Meanwhile Craig McFarlane began a three-match suspension with Josh Day taking his place in defence.

After a quiet opening the game came to life after 14 minutes when Day played the ball down the Whitley right and Watling’s cleanly struck shot from the edge of the penalty area beat keeper Josh Richardson but just cleared the bar and landed on the roof of the net.

Six minutes later a cross from Robbie Bird on the left was headed over by Paul Chow.

Kepper Mark Cook was called into action 60 seconds later when he collected a sliced clearance from Day that briefly threatened danger for Whitley.

A long range effort from Jamie Hope swerved beyond the top corner of the Bay goal and brought applause from the home fans, but chances were beginning to come at both ends.

Ryan’s header from Chris McDonald’s free kick was held by Richardson, whose clearance set up a quick counter attack which ended with Kelly firing wide when well placed.

The Cumbrians took the lead slightly against the run of play after 27 minutes when a shot from Hope on the right corner of the penalty area went in off the far post.

Barely a minute later they doubled their lead when Jackson was tripped by Foster and referee Scott Taylor awarded the hosts a penalty, which Matthew Read comfortably converted.

Stunned by the turn of events, there were fears among Bay fans of a collapse similar to that at Bishop Auckland seven days earlier.

However, Whitley picked themselves up and six minutes later might have reduced the deficit when Watling’s deft touch set up Chow but his shot was blocked.

With 37 minutes on the clock, Jonny Godsmark’s low cross from the right caused confusion in the Penrith defence and Watling slipped the ball through to Michael Laws who had the simplest of tap-in goals from barely two yards out.

Without having played anywhere near their best, Whitley were back in the game and with Kelly failing to make the most of an opportunity for the Cumbrians, the score remained 2-1 and with everything to play for as the half-time whistle was blown.

Penrith twice went close in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Sean Gardner seeing a good attempt pushed wide by Cook before Hall cut in from the left, waltzing past at least three defenders before drilling a low effort just wide of the far post.

Whitley gradually provided more of an attacking threat and with 68 minutes played they drew level.

Once again Godsmark was the architect of the goal, his ball into the area from out on the right appeared to be handled by a defender. Chow immediately appealed for a penalty but Bird did not wait for the referee’s decision and lashed the loose ball into the net.

The equaliser set up a tense final quarter as both sides battled for the winner.

Whitley had the greater share of possession, forcing the Cumbrians back in defence, but the cutting edge was lacking and it was a similar story at the other end with Penrith only rarely posing a threat.

The closing stages saw Whitley pressing forward, their best opportunity coming in the 90th minute when a free kick played to the back post by McDonald was pushed behind by Richardson.

In the end a draw was probably a fair outcome with Whitley having the better of the second half after Penrith had been the more impressive in the opening period.

Whitley Bay: Cook, Day (Kempster 37), McDonald, Ellison, Foster, Ryan, Godsmark, Laws, Watling, Chow, Bird. Subs not used: Harris, Gladstone, Bott, Redford.