Whitley Bay fail to break ten-man league leaders Shildon

Whitley Bay picked up a valuable point at Dean Street on Wednesday evening, which was enough for second place Shildon to leapfrog Spennymoor at the top of the table.

Ahead of the game, most Bay fans would have settled for a point, but when Shildon had a man sent off with barely half an hour played, Whitley might have been expected to push for all three.

In the event, Shildon defended in depth effectively and it was only in the closing stages that the visitors threatened to snatch a winner.

Brad Brooking and Stephen Buzzeo came into the starting 11, as did keeper Tom Kindley, but Craig McFarlane, injured at Spennymoor, and Callum Anderson were both unfit.

In the Shildon ranks was former Bay midfielder LeePaul Scroggins, while Lee Kerr, signed the previous day from Spennymoor, was on the bench.

Early in the game, Rob Nolan broke down the right but his cross was held by Keith Finch just ahead of Paul Chow.

With just eight minutes on the clock, Shildon took the lead with a spectacular long range shot.

With seemingly little danger to the Bay goal, Ben Wood was allowed to advance unchallenged from out on the left wing, and spotting his chance he fired a 25-yard shot that flew just inside the top corner of the net, leaving Kindley helpless.

The early goal left Bay fans fearing the worst, but rather than building on their success, Shildon were pushed back as Whitley battled for an equaliser.

Youngster Alex Kempster was prominent in a number of attacks, firstly with a cross from the left from which Nolan was ruled offside and then with another cross that was poked behind for a corner.

Whitley were beginning to get on top when Leon Ryan’s glancing header from Paul Antony’s cross flew wide after 24 minutes.

And the home defence was struggling again two minutes later. Chow won the ball following Buzzeo’s header and slid an accurate pass into the path of Kempster just inside the penalty area. He was almost clear on goal but went to ground when challenged by Shildon’s Jamie Harwood. Referee Paul Newhouse immediately pointed the penalty spot and with Harwood deemed to be the last man, he was shown a red card.

Chow fired the spot kick high into the net to level the score and leave the Railwaymen to play out the remaining hour with ten men.

Not surprisingly they took off a striker with a replacement brought on to bolster their defence.

The only incident of note in the remainder of the first half was a shot from Antony that Finch saved low down.

After the break, Shildon’s Mark Doninger fired a shot high over the bar, but that was a rare chance for the home side who became increasingly content to defend in depth.

They did so effectively, denying Whitley any real attempts on goal until the final few minutes.

A header from Chow and a shot from James Novak were as much as they could produce as the game turned into something of a stalemate, with both sides seeming content to settle for a point.

Shildon brought on Kerr midway through the half and it was a strange sight for Bay fans to see the player who spent almost ten years at Hillheads now appearing in opposition colours, but playing a lone striker role he had little opportunity to make an impact on the game.

Hopes that Shildon might run out of steam with a man short did not materialise, but as it became clear that they were slowing the pace of the game, Whitley seemed to sense that they had the opportunity to take all three points and a late flurry of attacks almost brought victory.

It was into stoppage time when a cross from the left caused confusion in the home defence and Kempster’s header looked to have won the game, but the ball was headed off the line and over the bar.

Whether it was a point gained or two dropped is open to debate but it extended a remarkable record for Whitley at Dean Street, where they have now drawn nine of their last 12 league games.

Whitley Bay: Kindley, Brooking, Novak, Reid, Ryan, Buzzeo, McMullen (C Smith 83 mins), Antony, Nolan, Chow, Kempster (Kallis 90 mins). Sub not used: Ball.