WITH Solway Sharks already confirmed as winners of the Northern Cup, Whitley Warriors coach Garry Dowd chose to rest some of his players for the trip to Billingham in the competition.
Mark Good, DJ Good and Callum Watson were all missing from the teamsheet while Calvin Khass was given a start in goal.
Bryan Dunn played his second game since returning from injury and there was also returns for Jordan Barnes and Phil Pritchard; two players who had been missing since before Christmas.
Khass was much the busier keeper in the opening period – facing 16 shots compared to the seven of his opposite number – but it was the Warriors who scored the only goal when Ally Brummitt netted his first of the season at 10.52, the visitors making good use of a powerplay opportunity.
And Whitley made a lightning start to the second session, increasing their lead by two after just 124 seconds.
Shaun Kippin was on hand to convert another chance with the extra man at 21.09 and less than a minute later it was Bryan Dunn who made it 3-0 to the away side.
However, Billingham defenceman Andy Finn reduced the arrears almost immediately and Michael Elder grabbed a second for the home side in the 29th minute when it was the Stars turn to make use of the extra player.
That gave the side top of the English National League something to fight for and they drew level at 43.18 when Andy Fletcher – who had a testimonial game over the Christmas holiday – found the back of the Whitley net.
The momentum could have been with the Stars then, but it was Whitley who stepped up a gear and Kippin grabbed his second of the night on 47 minutes to put the visitors back in front; much to the delight of the large travelling support.
“I’m delighted with the performance and the result,” said Whitley coach Garry Dowd after the game.
“We’ve played better each time we’ve come down to Billingham and tonight, even with some of our top players missing, we thoroughly deserved our victory.
“It was great to have players back from injury as well, and Bryan (Dunn), Jordan (Barnes) and Phil (Pritchard) all played their part in the victory.
“And I must mention netminder Calvin Khass. The form of Ritchie Lawson recently has meant Calvin has not played as many minutes as he feels he should, but he came in tonight and was outstanding; and as a coach it’s great to know you have someone ready and willing to step in when needed.
“It’s now given us a platform on which to build for the remainder of the ENL regular season and when the Stars visit Hillheads in a couple of weeks time for a crucial top-of-the-table clash, they will come knowing we can beat them.”
The Warriors are in action twice this weekend, travelling to Manchester on Saturday for a game against Trafford Metros, while bottom side Solihull Barons are the visitors to Hillheads the next night.
Tickets for the Solihull game are available on the night, priced at adults £7.50, under 16s and concessions £5.50, while a family ticket is available for £22. The action gets underway at 5pm, with the doors open 30 minutes before face-off.