Whitley Bay suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in what was a wind affected game at Sam Smith’s Sports Ground against Newcastle Benfield.
This was the Seahorses’ first game in more than a fortnight due to postponments, and it saw further changes to the squad, with three new signings making their debuts.
All three showed promise with Chris MacDonald in particular catching the eye.
The youngster, signed from Wearside League side Jarrow FC, fitted in well at left back and also contributed with several good attacking moves.
But the game got off to the worst possible start for the visitors, who were playing into the strong, blustery wind in the first half.
They went behind with barely 90 seconds on the clock after a free kick by former Bay midfielder Mark Convery was put behind for a corner.
The flag kick on the right was played to Stephen Baptist whose close range header beat keeper Tom Kindley to give Newcastle Benfield an early lead.
Whitley responded by forcing three corners in quick succession, but none seriously troubled the home defence.
And they went two down after 20 minutes when slack defending allowed Michael Riley to set up Paul Brayson on the left edge of the Bay penalty area and he curled the ball past Kindley high into the far corner of the net.
Benfield threatened with every attack as Whitley struggled with the elements, especially in defence.
Things then went from bad to worse for the visitors when Benfield were awarded a penalty after 32 minutes as Tomi Ameobi was penalised for handball.
It appeared more a case of ball to hand but with his arms outstretched, he was judged to have deliberately handled the ball.
Kindley made a great effort to save the spot kick but Brayson’s drive was too powerful and at 3-0 the game seemed over with almost an hour still to go.
However, Whitley grabbed a lifeline three minutes later when referee Shane Sugden pointed to the spot after Paul Chow was held back by Stephen Tobin inside the penalty area.
Tobin was cautioned for the offence but Benfield players argued that their goalkeeper Andrew Grainger had been impeded during the incident.
When order was restored, Chow comfortably converted the spot kick to reduce the deficit.
With the wind at their backs in the second half, Bay posed a much greater threat and Benfield were forced back in defence for lengthy periods of the contest.
On the hour, Alex Kempster was brought on after debutant Callum Hope hobbled off with an injury.
And a few minutes later Stephen Buzzeo was replaced by Michael McMullen as manager Ian Chandler made further changes to his line-up
Whitley were battling to get back in the game and they deservedly pulled a second goal back with 20 minutes remaining when striker Chow poked the ball past Grainger from close range following a right wing cross from Craig McFarlane.
Benfield could have been reduced to ten men when Tobin, who had already been cautioned, made a clumsy foul right on the edge of the penalty area to deny Whitley a shot on goal.
However, although the referee lectured the tall centre back, he kept his card in his pocket.
The pressure was growing on the home side as Whitley sensed that they could rescue a point.
And with 12 minutes to go, Ameobi’s bullet header beat Grainger but Mark Turnbull bravely headed the ball off the line as the home side defended in depth.
When they did break downfield, Ameobi showed composure with several crucial tackles to nullify the threat of strike pairing Baptist and Brayson.
Lewis Burns made a late appearance from the bench for Whitley Bay, replacing the third debutant, striker Tony Stephenson.
But against a well marshalled Benfield defence he was unable to make a significant contribution and despite their battling second half fightback, Whitley suffered what was their 12th away defeat of the season.
With most of the sides below them in division one having games in hand, Whitley have a real battle on their hands if they are to finish in the top half of the table this season.
Whitley Bay: Kindley, McFarlane, MacDonald, Reid, Ryan, Anderson, Hope (Kempster 59 mins), Ameobi, Stephenson (Burns 78), Chow, Buzzeo (McMullen 61). Substitutes not used: Rivers, Smith.
Tuesday night’s game against Guisborough Town was called off early in the day as the Hillheads pitch was waterlogged. It will be re-arranged for later in the season.