Stockton Town 2-5 Whitley Bay
This was Whitley’s first ever visit to Stockton Town and it was one they will long remember after ending their hosts’ impressive six match winning run with a well deserved and hard earned victory.
In a thoroughly entertaining game of excellent quality football, Whitley inflicted the heaviest defeat of the season on the newly promoted Teesside outfit, who are currently flying high and one of only two Northern League sides still involved in this season’s FA Vase.
In contrast to the heavy conditions at most grounds during the winter months, the 3G all-weather pitch allowed both sides to play some fast and accurate passing football while keeping the ball on the ground.
For only the second time this season, Alex Kempster was missing from the Bay squad, having picked up a foot injury, but he was the only absentee from a strong side.
The first action of the game came in the sixth minute when a header from Stockton’s prolific striker Jamie Owens was pushed wide by Tom Flynn. Four minutes later, in their first attack of the game, Whitley took the lead when Matty Cornish produced a sublime volley to slot home a right wing cross from Tom Potter. Five minutes later, Kyle Patton almost doubled the lead but he was just beaten to a low cross into the goalmouth by keeper Liam Jordan. The second goal was not long delayed though, and it came in the 18th minute when Callum Johnston latched onto a perfect defence splitting ball from Tom Potter. The teenager advanced to the edge of the box before nonchalantly slotting the ball past Jordan.
Stung by the two quick goals, Stockton fought back strongly and after a shot from distance by Max Craggs had cleared the bar, they pulled a goal back in the 23rd minute when Whitley failed to deal with a long throw-in and James Risborough drove the ball home from close range. Now getting into their stride, the home side threatened again five minutes later, with Craig Stockton forcing a good save from Flynn.
Both sides were playing attacking football with chances coming at both ends and when Cornish squared the ball to Potter, his goalbound shot struck Johnston in a crowded 18 yard box. Straight from the resultant goal kick, Stockton attacked down the left and a dangerous cross flew beyond the far post and out of play. Josh Nearney then burst forward for Whitley but his ambitious long range shot failed to find the target. With the action continuing at a breathless pace, a first time attempt from Fred Woodhouse went wide of the Bay goal. The home side were pushing hard for an equaliser but Whitley were a threat on the break and they retained their one goal advantage at the interval.
Three minutes into the second half, Stockton levelled the score when Owens headed home and they were now getting on top, but determined Bay defending kept them out. A tremendous one handed save from Flynn denied Woodhouse just past the hour but then Whitley responded with Cornish forcing Jordan to push the ball round the post.
A crucial moment in the game came in the 68th minute when Jordan misplaced a clearance and the ball fell for Kyle Patton on the edge of the box. The youngster calmly cut in from the left before drilling a low shot past the keeper to put Whitley back in front. They were now firmly in the ascendency and five minutes later Patton left his marker mesmerised by his excellent close control near the left touch line. After advancing a few steps he then played the ball square to Johnston who looked up before lobbing a superb shot from fully 25 yards which flew over Jordan and dipped just under the bar. It was a superb goal and left the home side deflated. Whitley were in complete control now and eight minutes from time they put the icing on the cake with a fifth goal, Nearney bulging the net with a powerful 15 yard shot following excellent approach work from Potter and Patton.
As their recent record shows, Stockton are a very good side but when they play as they did in this game, Whitley are a match for any team in the league.