WHITLEY Bay FC recorded their 14th consecutive victory on Monday night with a hard fought win at Bishop Auckland.
This was Whitley’s first visit to Bishop’s new Heritage Park home and they had to contend with a dreadful pitch, by far the worst in the Northern League.
Serious drainage problems have led to numerous postponements and the pitch was heavily sanded, more reminiscent of Whitley Bay beach than a football pitch.
In addition, small sections had been returfed and stood above the level of the surrounding areas.
This made playing conditions tricky but Whitley’s much changed line-up were not deterred and quickly asserted their superiority.
With just six minutes on the clock, Darren Reay, making his first start since returning to the club, was tripped by Stephen Salvin right on the edge of the area and captain on the night Lee Kerr curled the ball into the top corner, giving keeper Peter Jeffries no chance.
Whitley were well on top with Chris Fawcett a constant threat on the left, and one cross to the far post only just eluded Lee Mason.
Then a looping header from Brian Smith was cleared off the line following Steve Gibson’s free kick.
At the other end the home side almost levelled when Kyle Hayes failed to collect a high ball but David Pounder raced back to make a crucial last ditch clearance.
Glen Taylor was playing his part with some good attacking play and using his height to good effect.
Bishop Auckland wasted an excellent chance to equalise seven minutes before half-time when a seemingly easy chance was poked wide of goal.
Jeffries then did well to block a shot from Reay that flew through a crowded defence.
The second half saw the home side battle to draw level but a combination of solid Bay defending and poor finishing kept them out.
Thirteen minutes from time, a great goal sealed Whitley’s win. Steve Gibson collected the ball around the half way line before advancing into the Auckland half, where he waltzed past several defenders before playing a neat one two with Lee Kerr and finally drilling a low shot past Jeffries. It was his first goal for the club and a real goal of the season contender.
Despite the introduction of striker Wayne Gredziak, the home side were unable to find a way back into the game and Whitley’s superior fitness proved decisive.
With the heavily congested fixture list, both sides were under strength, but for Whitley to achieve another win with the likes of David Coulson, Darren Timmons, Paul Robinson and Paul Chow all rested says a great deal for the strength of the squad.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Gibson, Pounder, Smith, Rowe (Williams 45 mins), Reay (McFarlane 65 mins), Ormston, Mason, Kerr, Taylor (Robson 57 mins), Fawcett.