Whitley Bay once again lose out at Sunderland RCA

Mark Bertram closes in on the Sunderland RCA goal during the first half.
Mark Bertram closes in on the Sunderland RCA goal during the first half.

Meadow Park at Ryhope has not been a happy hunting ground for Whitley Bay in recent seasons, and it continued to be the case on Saturday.

Despite looking the better side for lengthy periods on Saturday, they went down to a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland RCA for the third year in succession.

On the balance of play it was a game Whitley should have won as they had the greater share of possession, but despite good build up play they failed to break down a resilient, well organised defence and got only two shots of note on target all afternoon.

The hosts seemed content to soak up the pressure for much of the game, creating few chances of their own, but twice they capitalised on defensive mistakes to extend their impressive unbeaten run to 15 games.

Despite the prolonged rain of recent days and a poor forecast, the pitch passed a morning inspection and conditions did not worsen until late in the game.

Playing down the slope, Whitley suffered a blow inside the first 15 minutes when Chris Reid, who has suffered a series of injuries over the past two years, limped off with a hamstring problem with Josh Day taking his place in defence.

RCA went close after 16 minutes when Callen’s header from a corner kick was cleared off the line by Stuart Bramley, who was taking the place of the unavailable Steve Gibson in the Bay defence.

Alex Kempster headed narrowly wide from a Mark Bertram corner after 27 minutes but Whitley’s best opportunity of the half came two minutes later when Kris Hughes drove a 20-yard shot across goal.

The ball was heading for the far corner of the net but keeper Jordan Harkess dived full length to push it round the post.

Typical of the pattern of play was a move when Callum Anderson played the ball through to Michael Bell who looked to have a chance of a shot on goal, but his attempt was cut out by the home defence.

Day then combined with Bell to set up a chance for Hughes but he fired over.

A rare break upfield saw Stephen Callen through on goal but he blazed his shot high over the bar when well placed.

In the final minute of the half, Whitley conceded possession deep inside the RCA half and the ball was quickly played up the left flank over the Bay defence. Dan Gladstone raced out of his goal but was cautioned after bringing down Callen 30 yards out.

Poor defending from the resultant free kick taken by Luke Proctor allowed Callen a free header at the back post and he put the Sunderland side ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Playing up the slope after the interval, Whitley had a half chance when Bell, preferred to Adam Shanks in the starting line up, was played through but his shot went the wrong side of the post.

Just before the hour mark, a first time effort from Bertram crashed off the post with Harkess rooted to the spot.

Shanks replaced Williamson on the hour as Whitley tried to find a cutting edge.

They continued to have the majority of the possession and when Kempster went past Ross McNab near the left corner flag as the defender slipped on the increasingly wet surface, his cross into the box was cleared by a well marshalled home defence.

After a quick break downfield, Proctor’s free kick was well saved by Gladstone but play soon reverted to the RCA half.

Whitley finally made their pressure count after 71 minutes when Day’s ball found Kempster who cut in across the edge of the 18-yard box before slipping the ball to Hughes who slotted home the equaliser from 15 yards.

It was no more than they deserved, but two minutes later they were behind again after another defensive lapse.

A free kick on the left was not properly dealt with and when Hughes sliced an attempted clearance from inside the Bay penalty area, the ball fell for Colin Larkin who also failed to strike the ball cleanly and it flew past Gladstone to put the hosts back in front.

Conditions were deteriorating as the persistent rain made the heavy pitch increasingly slippery.

Anderson had a header saved and appeals for a penalty proved in vain after Kempster tumbled to the ground following a challenge in the box.

The Wearsiders were happy to play out the closing stages in their own half, leaving Whitley frustrated along with their fans, who had travelled in large numbers to make it Meadow Park’s biggest league attendance of the season by some way.

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Bramley, McDonald, Anderson, Laws, Reid (Day 12), Williamson (Shanks 59), Hughes, Kempster. Subs not used: Hudson, Norris, Richardson.