Whitley Bay hold firm to earn FA Cup replay

Paul Chow on the attack for Whitley Bay at Bridlington.
Paul Chow on the attack for Whitley Bay at Bridlington.
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Whitley Bay earned a replay at Hillheads on Tuesday night after a closely fought FA Cup extra preliminary round tie ended all square at Bridlington’s Queensgate stadium on Saturday.

Robbie Bird put Bay in front early in the second half but they were pegged back less than ten minutes later and had to withstand considerable pressure in the final quarter as the Yorkshire side did their best to settle the tie at the first attempt.

Whitley’s cause was not helped by the absence of Callum Anderson through work commitments and Thomas Bott who was injured, but following his international clearance, Columbian born midfielder Esteban Lopez was handed his debut.

After a low key opening, keeper Mark Cook was called into action after 17 minutes, safely gathering the ball from a corner played high towards the back of the six-yard box.

Whitley’s first chance of the game came four minutes later when Bird was fouled and Lopez played the free kick low into the goalmouth where Town keeper Adam Nicholson got down well to gather the ball.

Bird was troubling the home defence but when he was tripped just outside the penalty area by Jenkinson, McDonald’s free kick did not have the power or accuracy to trouble Nicholson.

Bridlington forced two corners in quick succession but neither posed any real danger to the Whitley back line.

Eight minutes before the interval, Paul Chow was brought down near the left corner flag, but the free kick from Lopez was cleared by the Town defence.

Whitley were beginning to get on top and had two chances to take the lead in the closing stages of the half.

Firstly, Chow was played through on goal but with the keeper advancing, he opted to square the ball to Bird whose shot was blocked almost on the line by Jenkinson.

An even better chance came shortly afterwards when Bird found himself with the goal at his mercy but he failed to hit the ball strongly enough and the chance was lost.

Whitley had edged the first half, but after the break, with the strengthening blustery wind in their favour, Bridlington started in more lively fashion and with 53 minutes played, Craig Hogg brought a good save from Cook.

Two minutes later, though, Whitley took the lead and it was Bird who got the goal.

Winning the ball just outside the left edge of Town’s penalty area, he cut in slightly before sending a 20-yard shot flying through a ruck of players and past a bemused Nicholson in the home goal.

It briefly looked as if Whitley might take control of the game but nine minutes later Town drew level through substitute Chris Adams.

Dangerous striker Ombeni Duka managed to weave his way into the Bay penalty area before laying the ball off to the unmarked Adams who slotted it into the far corner of the net beyond the reach of Cook.

Allanson had two good chances in the next six minutes as the Yorkshiremen stepped up a gear, but a shot then a header were both off target.

The wind was making it difficult to play controlled football and Whitley were being forced back in defence, where Liam Harris and Brad Brooking were working hard to prevent the hosts getting shots on target.

Lopez had shown plenty of pace and some good moves but was being out-muscled by the home defenders and was replaced for the final 20 minutes by Alex Kempster, returning to the side after injury.

Marc Ellison and Josh Day were also introduced in the final quarter to provide fresh legs in midfield and defence.

There were a few anxious moments as Town pressed for a winner, but in a quick counter attack, Chow and Bird almost caught out the home defence.

A timely tackle by Birch averted the danger and after three minutes of added time, the final whistle was greeted with some relief by the large contingent of Bay fans who had made the 100-mile trip down the coast.

Whitley will be happy to have earned a second chance, especially on home soil, but they will have to play better in Tuesday’s replay if they are to advance to the next round.

The support of a good size Hillheads crowd could help to sway the tie in their favour. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

Whitley Bay: Cook, McFarlane, McDonald, Brooking, Harris, Smith (Day 86), Laws, Buzzeo (Ellison 74), Lopez (Kempster 68), Bird. Subs not used: Gladstone, Foster, Redford.