A DEVASTATING first half performance by Whitley swept aside the challenge of Marske as the fans at Hillheads were treated to as exciting a display of attacking football as anyone could wish to see.
Paul Chow was at his very best and scored a hat-trick inside 40 minutes while 19-year-old Andy Robertson, making only his second start for the first team, deservedly got on the score sheet as well. Chow was a constant thorn in the side of the Marske defence and as he admitted after the game, Whitley could have ended up with a much bigger winning margin, such were the chances they created.
Prospects before kick off did not look so rosy, with captain Paul Robinson unwell and missing the game along with LeePaul Scroggins who was injured, while striker Ash Davis was not fully fit and did not make the starting 11.
Marske came into the game in good heart, with new manager Ted Watts having won his first game in charge of the club just three days earlier.
Right from the start, Whitley put the visitors under pressure and it took them only five minutes to take the lead. The goal came after an excellent run down the right wing by Brad Brooking whose speed left opponents struggling. When he crossed the ball, two attempted clearances by defenders were miscued and Chow pounced to fire the ball into the net from barely two yards out.
Whitley doubled their lead seven minutes later when a ball over the top reached Chow, who nodded it over keeper Scott Allison. The keeper stumbled while Chow went past him to drill the ball into an empty net from just inside the 18 yard box.
Marske were understandably looking shell-shocked and there was no relief as Whitley kept up the pressure. James Novak had the visitors in trouble from a short corner then after 24 minutes, an excellent attempt by Chow from a narrow angle on the left clipped the bar.
Aided by Andy Robertson, Chow was tormenting the Marske rearguard and when he broke clear just four minutes later, he almost completed his hat-trick but the ball went the wrong side of the far post. Chris Reid’s header flew into the side netting and Kerr’s free kick was only inches wide as the Marske goal was under constant bombardment.
The pressure was building and Whitley’s third goal followed after 36 minutes when Robertson’s persistence took him past three defenders when it looked as if he had lost possession but twice he battled back to regain the ball as he cut in from the left before rifling a shot past Allison for his first senior goal for the club.
Marske were visibly wilting and it took only four more minutes for Chow to find the back of the net again and complete his hat-trick. Inside the 18 yard box, he quickly turned and beat Allison with a low shot which took him past John Gatens to become the club’s third top scorer of all time, behind Lee Kerr and record holder the great Billy Wright.
With the game now won, the question at half time was would Whitley go in search of more goals or settle for what they had. Fans did not have long to wait for the answer as within five minutes, James Fairley, having an impressive game in the centre of midfield, curled a shot narrowly past the post from Lee Kerr’s corner. Fairley tried his luck again minutes later and this time, his 25 yard shot was not held by Allison, who managed to grab it at the second attempt. The keeper’s uncertainty, and their commanding lead, encouraged Whitley players to shoot on sight and Chow was unlucky to see at least two more chances go just beyond the post.
A rare moment of action at the other end saw Kyle Hayes react quickly, racing out of his goal to reach and clear a long ball ahead of advancing Marske striker David Onions.
Disappointment for Bay fans but surely some relief to the Marske side came just after the hour when Paul Chow was taken off, to be replaced by Michael McMullen. The young winger was soon in the action though, crossing the ball beyond the Marske defence where Denver Morris, with the goal at his mercy, stooped to head the ball wide of the target. Another Morris header was saved by Allison as Whitley, with Robertson having also been replaced, made full use of their substitutes.
With captain for the night Lee Kerr totally commanding in midfield and many people’s choice as man of the match, Marske, try as they did, created very little and Whitley comfortably recorded their second successive clean sheet.
Despite playing some good constructive football, they could not add to their score, but this was not a game where Whitley eased off; indeed they continued to look for goals right until the final whistle, Kerr’s exquisite lob playing McMullen clear only for him to put his shot wide and even Callum Anderson pushed forward in the closing stages but he could not get his head to a high ball into the goalmouth.
WHITLEY BAY: Hayes, Brooking, Novak, Anderson, Reid, Fairley, Fawcett, Robertson (C Smith 75 mins), Kerr, Chow (McMullen 63 mins), Morris (Walker 80 mins).