DESPITE twice taking the lead, Whitley had to settle for a draw on their first visit to Team Northumbria’s Coach Lane ground.
Paul Chow scored both of their goals while it was a former Bay player Mark Fenwick who was on target twice for the hosts.
Whitley were missing Callum Anderson and Brad Brooking through injury so Ian Chandler took the opportunity to give 18-year-old Kyle Downey his first senior start after he came off the bench to score the fourth goal at Durham five days earlier.
Whitley started brightly and in the second minute, Paul Chow went close but could not fully control a bouncing ball which took a deflection off a defender as it went wide of goal. Four minutes later in their first attack, Northumbria almost took the lead when a shot crashed off the bar and the ball was scrambled to safety by the Bay defence.
Fenwick brought a save from Kyle Hayes after 14 minutes but two minutes later Whitley made the breakthrough when Chow slid the ball home at the far post from a perfect defence splitting cross by Chris Fawcett.
The students responded well and after 33 minutes they levelled the score when Ben Sayer’s cross from the right eluded three Whitley defenders and Fenwick was left unmarked to slot the ball home from ten yards.
Five minutes before the interval, Lee Kerr’s shot was pushed over the bar by Andy Jennison and barely a minute later, a measured through ball from Paul Robinson reached Paul Chow who held off the challenge of a defender before chipping the ball neatly over Jennison to restore Whitley’s lead with what was his 199th goal for the club.
Whitley finished the half strongly and just before the whistle, LeePaul Scroggins played the ball to David Pounder who fired not far over the bar.
The second half soon saw Northumbria on the attack, as they played some neat and accurate balls from midfield. Whitley were nearly caught out when Fenwick got another effort on target but Hayes pushed the ball wide.
The resulting corner saw Cairns fire the ball over the bar, but the danger signs were there and within two minutes the scores were level again.
Dan Riley played an excellent cross field ball to Fenwick who was in space on the left and he had time to place his shot firmly past Hayes.
Louis Storey then headed over the bar as the home side got on top.
Whitley briefly threatened when they were awarded a free kick about 25 yards from goal, but Lee Kerr’s shot was pushed round the post by Jennison.
Mark Fenwick went close to giving his side the lead with 65 minutes on the clock. Receiving Watling’s pass just inside the Bay half, the former Whitley man attempted an audacious long range lob and Hayes did well to palm the ball wide of goal.
Ten minutes later, Chow’s shot from a narrow angle on the left was pushed behind by Jennison but this was a rare attack and it was Kyle Hayes who was the busier of the two keepers.
Josh Day, a youngster from the Reserves, came off the bench to make his first senior appearance in the closing stages, while Kyle Downey, who had done well on his full debut, made way from James Fairley. Four minutes from time, the offside flag denied Chow the chance to restore Whitley’s lead when he was played clear by Fairley, returning following the injury he suffered against Bishop Auckland.
Against a much better Team Northumbria side than the one they crushed 6-0 back in October, Whitley had to settle for a share of the points, which was a fair reflection of the game.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Downey (Fairley 84 mins), Novak, McFarlane, Reid, Pounder (C Smith 75 mins), Fawcett, Scroggins, Kerr, Chow, Robinson (Day 75 mins). Substitutes not used: B Smith, Rowe.
This Saturday Whitley are at home to Guisborough Town, a side with a good record at Hillheads over the years.
Earlier this season though, Whitley returned from North Yorkshire as comfortable 3-1 winners.
Ian Chandler’s side will be missing Lee Kerr who has a one match suspension but the manager will be hoping that Brad Brooking and Callum Anderson have recovered from injury.
Next Monday Whitley are due to travel to Bishop Auckland in the fourth round of the League Cup while on Good Friday, Whitley face local rivals Newcastle Benfield at Hillheads in a 3pm kick-ff.