Whitley Bay’s excellent unbeaten run since Marc Nash took over as manager came to an unexpected end at bottom of the table Guisborough Town on Saturday.
The North Yorkshire side, on a dismal run of form, were shaken by the resignation of manager Steve Dowling in midweek and as can often happen in such circumstances, the players responded as if they had something to prove, with a performance that belied their lowly position.
The early stages provided no indication of what was to come with the home side looking low on confidence as Whitley dominated the first 25 minutes, repeatedly cutting through a hesitant and nervous looking defence.
With just under five minutes played, Kyle Fryatt’s ball found Alex Kempster unmarked inside the Guisborough penalty area and he rounded the keeper before slotting the ball into an empty net to give the visitors the perfect start.
Three minutes later, Kempster set up Tom Potter, whose shot was headed behind for a corner. The ball into the box caused panic in the home defence before it was eventually scrambled clear.
Maintaining the pressure, Whitley might have extended their lead in the 14th minute but Andy Robertson’s ball into the box was headed behind by defender Lee Bythway.
Four minutes later, Kempster’s cross from the right saw Fryatt fire a shot inches wide of the far post.
Town keeper James Dawson then kept his side in the game coming off his line to smother another shot from Potter.
Potter was thwarted yet again before Dawson made another crucial save to keep out an effort from Robertson following a cross from Fryatt.
Guisborough had made only rare forays downfield up to this stage, but with 27 minutes on the clock and completely out of the blue they grabbed an equaliser.
Gary Wood played a long ball down the left over the Bay defence and Connor Smith raced in from the wing to send a measured shot beyond the advancing Tom Flynn.
Clearly boosted by the goal, Town raised their game and barely two minutes later Sam Orritt raced down the right and his ball flew across the face of goal with no one on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Robertson then drove a shot high over the bar after good work from Kempster had set up the chance for Whitley to regain the lead, but despite all their chances, the scores remained level at the interval.
Early in the second half, former Bay midfielder Chris Youldon cleared a header from Kempster off the line, then Nick Allen fired just wide after a corner was played short and Fryatt crossed the ball to the back of the 18-yard box.
Guisborough then came more into the game, pushing Whitley onto the back foot.
Ferguson’s 25-yard free kick brought a good low save from Flynn, but when the home side pushed forward again, Wood played the ball from midfield for David Onions to chase down and he took it to the by-line where he evaded a challenge from Keltie and from a tight angle slid the ball into the net past Flynn to the delight of the home side and their fans.
Having got their noses in front, Guisborough fought harder than ever for every ball and Whitley seemed to run out of ideas, rarely troubling Dawson in the final quarter of the game.
Pushing forward in search of the equaliser, Whitley left themselves vulnerable to the counter attack and when a fierce shot rebounded off a home defender, a quick break upfield could have brought a third goal for the home side, but excellent defending by Allen averted the danger.
Substitutes Kyle Patton and Adam Shanks both went close in the later stages, but despite five minutes of added time, Guisborough held on and in the end they deservedly claimed a rare victory that lifted them off the foot of the table.
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Munro, McDonald, Allen, Keltie, Anderson, Potter, Haley (C Patton 60), Robertson (K Patton 77), Kempster, Fryatt (Shanks 71).
On Saturday Whitley make the short journey up the Coast Road to face in-form Newcastle Benfield, who have won five of their last six league games.
When the sides met at Hillheads in August, Bay won 3-1, and they will be looking to recover from the disappointment of their defeat at Guisborough with a good performance against one of their local rivals.