WHITLEY Bay cruised to victory over their Midland Alliance opponents Causeway in a surprisingly one-sided game as they reached the fourth round of the FA Vase for the seventh consecutive season.
Causeway, who had travelled up from Stourbridge on Friday, arrived on Tyneside hopeful of creating an upset, but by the 23rd minute their hopes were all but destroyed as Whitley raced into a three-goal lead.
The recent bad weather had forced the postponement of Bay’s last two games, but the Hillheads pitch was in remarkably good condition, due in no small part to the hard work of groundsman Dave Styles.
In the opening moments the visitors looked lively and captain Stuart How tried his luck from some way out but his shot was well off target.
However, it did not take long for Whitley to get into their stride and they took the lead in the sixth minute when a ball played across goal from the right was slotted home by Brad Brooking, beating the dive of keeper Tom Turner.
The home side should have scored again just two minutes later when Ash Davis crossed from the right and the ball was fumbled by Turner leaving Paul Robinson with an open goal, but from just four yards out he somehow managed to put the ball wide.
“It was an absolute sitter,” he later admitted.
The miss was soon forgotten as Whitley doubled their lead in the 12th minute when Lee Kerr’s corner was flicked on by Chris Fawcett and amid confusion in the Causeway defence, Paul Chow struck the ball with his knee and aided by a deflection off a defender, it ended up in the net.
Six minutes later it could have been three, Chow heading just over the bar from Fawcett’s cross.
A rare excursion downfield after 20 minutes brought temporary relief for the Midlanders’ defence, but How wasted a gilt edged opportunity when he found space in the Whitley half but failed to force a save from Kyle Hayes.
Whitley’s third goal after 23 minutes was an excellent example of one touch football which cut open the Causeway defence.
Chow won possession near the left touchline and crossed to James Novak whose ball into the path of Robinson saw the captain make up for the earlier miss with a clinical finish from around ten yards.
Whitley were completely dominating the game and opening up the visitors defence almost at will.
Brooking, venturing upfield to add to Whitley’s attacking options, was only inches away from getting his second of the game, and then Robinson crashed a great shot off the underside of the bar, with the ball bouncing on the line then rebounding away from goal.
Causeway defender Carl Martin twice headed over his own bar to keep shots out, then three minutes before half-time, Robinson, spotting Turner off his line, tried a typically audacious long range shot from at least 40 yards. The keeper had his heart in his mouth as he raced back and was relieved to see the ball dip just over.
Frustration was getting the better of Causeway defender Adam Meacham and he was booked for a foul shortly before the interval.
The opening ten minutes of the second half at last saw the visitors come more into the game, but although they had more of the ball, they could make little impression on a solid and impressive Bay defence, with Hayes barely having a save to make all game.
Craig Gregg blazed a shot high over the bar and Aston wasted a good chance, but LeePaul Scroggins and Kerr controlled the centre of midfield, giving little opportunity for Causeway to build any momentum.
After 57 minutes, Chow headed over from Kerr’s corner then the impressive Davis, who troubled the Midlanders throughout, burst through from the halfway line, shrugging off several challenges on the way, but was finally denied just as he was about to get a shot on goal.
Three minutes later, Davis helped set up the fourth goal when he received a ball from Robinson and played it across the face of goal for Chow to finish from close range.
Whitley were now stepping up the pace and a minute later, Kerr’s corner almost brought a first ever Bay goal for Callum Anderson, but his header went the wrong side of the back post.
The fifth goal was lot long delayed and with 63 minutes on the clock, an inch perfect cross from Fawcett was headed home by Chow to complete his hat-trick.
Causeway players must have been relieved a few minutes later when Chow was substituted, to rapturous applause as he left the pitch and a sporting hand shake from one of the visiting players.
Davis continued to pose a threat as his pace troubled a tiring defence and two crosses almost produced goals, one just too far ahead of Kerr while another saw Novak produce a looping header that Turner was grateful to hold.
Twelve minutes from time, Kerr, who had moved up front after Chow’s substitution, completed the scoring after another cross from Fawcett gave him an easy tap in for the sixth goal.
Robinson was understandably delighted with the team’s performance and was full of praise for his team-mates.
“We always like to get early goals in the Vase to settle everyone down, and today we scored some really good, well worked goals. It was an excellent performance,” he said.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Robinson (Pounder 71 mins), Kerr, Chow (Fairley 66 mins), Davis (McMullen 76 mins), Scroggins, Fawcett, McFarlane, Novak, Brooking, Anderson.