Whitley Bay fought back strongly from two goals down to earn a share of the spoils in an entertaining match at Consett.
Following Ian Chandler’s departure on Thursday, Marc Nash took charge of the team and he had a near full strength squad to choose from, the only absentee being Adam Shanks, who was unavailable due to a one match suspension.
Chris McDonald returned to the line-up after missing the midweek game at Morpeth through illness.
On an uncharacteristically calm and warm afternoon at the Belle View Stadium, Whitley made a positive start with some neat one touch football, but it was Consett who took the lead in the 11th minute when a right wing corner was played to the edge of the 18-yard box and Matty Slocombe fired an excellent shot into the top corner of the net, giving Tom Flynn no chance.
Whitley attacked from the restart and when Alex Kempster in centre midfield played the ball out wide to the left, McDonald cut in but shot over the bar.
Just past the quarter hour, there was a lengthy hold up in play when Callum Anderson went down with an ankle injury and after treatment hobbled off the field and was unable to continue, forcing an early substitution with Aiden Haley taking his place.
Whitley were exposing a lack of understanding in the Consett defence and a free kick from Kempster caused confusion between debutant keeper Sam Guthrie and his defenders with the ball eventually being cleared into touch.
On the half hour, Consett midfielder Nathan Lawrence struck a fierce 25-yard shot towards goal but Flynn finger-tipped the effort over the bar.
Gradually coming back into the game, the Steelmen dealt a blow to Whitley’s hopes in the 34th minute when captain Danny Craggs doubled his side’s lead with an expertly taken free kick over the defensive wall and beyond the reach of Flynn.
A foul conceded by Nearney on the edge of the box gave Craggs another free kick in an almost identical position, but this time his shot drifted wide of goal.
With the game in stoppage time, Flynn produced another fine save to palm away yet another effort from the influential Craggs.
The hosts ended the half the stronger and Whitley needed a quick response after the interval if they were to get something from the game.
That is just what happened and after Nearney had shot over the bar from Callum Patton’s cross, Kyle Fryatt played the ball through to Andy Robertson who burst clear and calmly slotted the ball past Guthrie to make it 2-1 just eight minutes after the resumption.
Three minutes later Whitley had the ball in the net again, but after receiving the ball from Patton, Haley’s effort from 15 yards was ruled offside.
Robertson then broke away on the right but from a narrow angle his shot was blocked by Guthrie.
With 15 minutes left, a 30-yard shot from Callum Patton flew just inches wide of the right hand post with Guthrie struggling to make his ground.
Barely a minute later, Consett might have sealed victory when substitute Josh Gray crossed from the left and fellow sub Michael Sweet, coming in at the back post, skied the ball over the bar.
Whitley were continuing to push forward and their persistence finally paid off in the last minute of the 90 following a foul 20 yards from goal. Callum Patton’s free kick took a deflection off a defender and flew into the net with Guthrie wrong footed.
While there was an element of fortune about the equaliser, there could be no disputing that Whitley were good value for their point.
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Nearney, Allen, Fowler (Munro 83), Anderson (Haley 18), Wilkinson, Fryatt (K Patton 83), C Patton, Robertson, Kempster, McDonald. Subs not used: Gibson, Powell.