Whitley By completed their Ebac Northern League programme with a resounding victory over Durham City.
In doing so they made it a disappointing first return to Hillheads for former manager Ian Chandler, who took over at City earlier in the month.
A near full strength Bay side started slowly and two former Whitley players in the Durham line-up were prominent in the early stages.
Striker Ryan McGorrigan, who began the season at Hillheads but has since had short spells at Ashington and Newcastle Benfield, tested Daniel Gladstone inside two minutes, but the young keeper blocked his shot.
Using their pace to good effect, Durham again threatened after ten minutes when McGorrigan sent a low shot whistling across the face of goal and just beyond the far post.
The visitors took a deserved lead after 15 minutes when a high ball into the Whitley goalmouth was headed away by Brooking, despite Gladstone appearing to call for the ball, and Denver Morris, who made 14 appearances for Whitley last season, raced on to the loose ball and from 30 yards out his perfect lob dipped just under the bar.
The goal stirred Whitley into life.
Whitley began to impose themselves with Craig McFarlane drilling the ball across goal only for Harrison to put it behind for a corner.
Alex Kempster’s flag kick almost brought about the equaliser, with Leon Ryan’s header towards the top corner being cleared off the line by a defender.
Moments later McFarlane was involved in the build up to the equaliser and when Craig Hubbard received the ball 22 yards out, the former Blyth midfielder spotted a gap between two defenders and rifled the ball low beyond the reach of keeper Dean Caris into the net.
Four minutes later McFarlane once again got the better of his man out on the right wing, and when he cut in, his low shot across goal crashed off the far post and rebounded straight back into the hands of the grateful Caris.
Durham tried to respond with some quick breaks from midfield, notably through Morris, but Whitley’s defence contained them well and Gladstone was not seriously troubled.
Whitley were posing an increasing threat through Paul Chow down the middle and McFarlane on the wing, while Durham’s early pace from their front men was evaporating, putting greater pressure on their midfield.
Four minutes before the interval, Whitley took the lead when an attempted clearance midway inside the Durham half rebounded off Hubbard and Chow seized on the ball and raced clear before drilling a powerful shot past Caris from just inside the penalty area.
It was his 250th goal for the club, a remarkable achievement only matched by the legendary Billy Wright more than 40 years ago.
A minute before the break, McFarlane had a shot on target blocked and a goalmouth scramble followed before the ball was eventually cleared by the City defence.
Durham’s chances of getting back into the game suffered a major setback less than five minutes into the second half when Chow rose to head home Kempster’s left wing corner for his 44th goal of the season.
The visitors did create a good chance soon after but Gladstone made an outstanding diving save to maintain Whitley’s two-goal advantage.
From then on, it was almost all Whitley as they controlled the game, playing some excellent football, keeping the ball on the ground and giving their opponents little time or space.
Chow was within inches of completing his hat-trick with 70 minutes on the clock, but his close range shot unluckily hit the underside of the bar and bounced back into play.
The woodwork once again came to Durham’s rescue when Kempster’s header from inside the six-yard box rattled the bar with Caris beaten.
Deep into stoppage time, Whitley got their fourth goal when both Chris Reid and Chow jumped above the tiring City defence to attack the ball as it came in from a left wing corner. Reid, who has become a regular scorer in recent weeks, got there first and headed it into the net, but having already gone close several times during the latter stages of the game, Chow understandably felt frustrated that he had been denied the chance of a hat-trick.
On an evening when every member of the Bay side played their part, Andy Robertson, a second half substitute, again showed real promise in attack and added to the sense of optimism among Bay fans about the club’s prospects for the future.
The final whistle was greeted with a tremendous ovation from the crowd and the players responded by applauding the fans who can once again look forward to a cup final as the climax to the season.
It may not be the FA Vase this time, but if Whitley can lift the League Cup it will cap a remarkable turn around in the club’s fortunes and a tremendous start in management for Leon Ryan and Steve Foster.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, McDonald, Anderson, Ryan (Robertson 45), Reid, McFarlane, Hubbard, Buzzeo (Redford 90), Chow, Kempster.