Whitley Bay put seven past Alnwick in Senior Cup

Whitley Bay went through to the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, but only after they were given a fright when Alnwick Town raced into a two- goal lead with just 16 minutes on the clock in their Tuesday night game at St James Park.

The visiting fans who travelled north in good numbers were fearing a shock exit from the competition as the Northern League second division side posed the greater threat throughout the first half.

And they were deservedly in front at the interval.

However, Whitley fought back strongly and ran riot in the second period with Paul Chow and Paul Antony both scoring hat-tricks.

Bay gave a debut to new striker Phil Airey, the Amble born player having signed from Blyth Spartans.

Alnwick, however, were prevented from including their recent signing Keith Douglas due to an agreement with his former club North Shields.

Playing down the, Alnwick were quickly into their stride and unlike Runcorn on Saturday they showed no signs of being overawed by the occasion.

They took the lead after 12 minutes when slack defending at a corner allowed Dale Kennedy to head home from close range.

With their confidence high, Alnwick continued to put pressure on the Whitley defence and four minutes later they doubled their lead with a well worked goal.

After the ball was switched from left to right across the Bay penalty area it was played back across goal from near the right by-line to James Jackson who had a simple tap-in.

The home side were finding space down the right flank and diminutive Alex Makin was making life difficult for the Bay defence.

Whitley eventually began to assert themselves and with 20 minutes gone Michael McMullen’s cross-shot was held high above his head by Town keeper Dan Mullen.

Revitalised under new manager Derek Atwell, Alnwick defended with determination and Whitley were not able to get a meaningful shot on target until the 26th minute when Chow met a cross from the right and lobbed the ball over Mullen, who got his fingers to the ball but could not prevent it trickling over the line to put the visitors back in the tie.

As Bay manager Ian Chandler acknowledged after the game, during the first half the neutral would have been hard pressed to tell which was the lower ranked side as Alnwick continued to look lively and on several occasions went close to restoring their two-goal advantage.

The freezing conditions were leading to a number of players struggling to keep their foothold on what was otherwise an excellent playing surface.

Whitley ended the half strongly, with Airey firing just wide of goal before a close range effort from Chow was pushed round the post.

In the second half Whitley, who brought on Stephen Buzzeo in place of McMullen after the interval, immediately stepped up a gear and within two minutes had drawn level when Chow’s cross from the left hit a defender and rebounded to Antony and into the net.

Four minutes later Bay looked certain to take the lead when a series of shots ricocheted around the six-yard box with Alnwick throwing bodies in the way but struggling to clear their lines.

Having survived the pressure they determinedly held out for another ten minutes and Tom Kindley was called on to block an attempt on goal.

But shortly after the hour mark the floodgates opened as the visitors scored five times in little more than 20 minutes.

The breakthrough came after 61 minutes when Airey fired in a great shot from the edge of the area past two defenders and beyond the reach of Mullen into the bottom corner of the net.

Little more than a minute later, Chow had a shot blocked but the ball fell for Antony and he slotted home the fourth goal.

Alnwick heads dropped as they saw their hopes disappear and with Whitley firmly in control, Chandler brought on Robbie Livermore for a cameo appearance.

A fans’ favourite during previous spells at the club, Livermore is now involved with the successful Reserves side, and he made a telling contribution in the closing stages.

Whitley’s fifth came after 69 minutes when Chow fired the ball into the roof of the net from ten yards.

And he made it six when he completed his hat-trick little more than five minutes later. The goal from the penalty spot came after Chris Fawcett, captain for the night against his home town club, saw his goalbound header handled almost on the line by Makin. The Alnwick midfielder was given a stern lecture by referee Paul Keogh but surprisingly was allowed to stay on the pitch and was not given even a yellow card.

Whitley added their seventh goal eight minutes from time when Livermore delivered a glorious inch perfect cross from out on the right wing which required the deftest of touches from Antony to divert it past Mullen and give the Bay midfielder his first hat-trick for the club.

Alnwick, who had been under pressure throughout the second half, finally broke away upfield and five minutes from time they won a penalty which Tony Brown confidently fired into the corner of the net for his side’s third goal of the night.

The last cup tie between the sides, at Hillheads in the same competition seven years ago, produced eight goals as Whitley came from two down to run out 5-3 winners.

Once again, Whitley had to come from behind but this time the crowd were treated to ten goals, at times nerve wracking but great entertainment and well deserved reward for turning out on a bitterly cold night.

Whitley Bay: Kindley, McFarlane, Novak, Smith, Ryan (Livermore 64 mins), Antony, Fawcett, McMullen (Buzzeo 45 mins), Airey, Chow, Brooking (Rivers 82 mins).