West Auckland Town 4-3 Whitley Bay
This dramatic, action packed cup tie had just about everything but sadly for Whitley it included heartbreak as West Auckland battled back from two goals down to claim a stoppage time winner.
After a quiet opening period, the home side created the first chance of the game in the 13th minute when leading scorer Nathan Fisher got a shot on target but it was blocked by Tom Flynn at the near post.
Whitley then broke away up the slope and a ball into the box was pushed out by West Auckland keeper Adam McHugh. Kyle Patton was quick to latch on to the loose ball but as he did so, McHugh brought him down to concede a penalty.
Alex Kempster, who was making his 200th appearance for the club, confidently beat the keeper from the spot to give Whitley a 16th minute lead.
Five minutes later it got even better for Whitley when Liam Brooks, inside the centre circle, played the ball out to the right for Kempster who burst forward and cut in past defender Lewis Galpin before firing a tremendous shot past McHugh at his near post.
At this stage, with a two goal lead, Whitley looked well in control and they might have got a third three minutes later when Kyle Patton played the ball into the box where Brooks turned and poked a shot towards the far corner of the net. Had he been able to get more power on the ball, it would have beaten the dive of McHugh but as it was, the keeper was grateful to make the save.
West Auckland were given a chance to get back in the game with 29 minutes played when Wearmouth went down on the edge of the box following a challenge by Matty Cornish.
Despite protests from Whitley players, the referee awarded a penalty but Anthony Bell’s shot struck the base of the post, beating the dive of Tom Flynn who had gone the right way. The ball rebounded across goal and out of play to leave Whitley’s two goal advantage intact.
After Cornish had struck a shot narrowly past the post for Whitley, West responded with Fisher being denied as Flynn blocked his shot with his legs. Adam Mitchell then fired a free kick towards the top corner only for Flynn to leap and push it round the post.
In the remaining minutes of the half, the home side continued to push forward but Whitley’s defending was resolute with Ross Wilkinson outstanding.
Immediately after the interval, Whitley came within inches of going three goals ahead as Thibault Charmey slotted the ball past McHugh only for Brooks to slide in and see his close range shot hit the bar. Aiming to put the game beyond the hosts, Whitley again went close three minutes later when Cornish cut in from the left and drove a shot just past the post.
West Auckland got back in the game eight minutes after the resumption when Mitchell floated a free kick into the goalmouth and Fisher headed home from close range.
Tom Potter started on the bench for Whitley but he was quick to make an impact when brought on for Cornish. Just past the hour mark, he got down the right wing and from near the by-line whipped in a cross that was met perfectly by Kempster who headed home to complete his hat trick and restore Whitley’s two goal lead.
It looked like the script had been written for Alex Kempster to mark his 200th appearance with a match winning hat trick. If so, West Auckland had not read the script and stepped up their game. Aided by a series of free kicks awarded by referee Mr Gittins whenever a West Auckland player went to ground, the home side forced Whitley back on the defensive. From one such free kick 25 yards from goal, Mitchell again floated the ball into the goalmouth and this time Darren Richardson headed home in the 67th minute.
Potter retaliated down the Bay right and played Kempster through but his shot from 20 yards flew wide of the target. Two minutes later a ball played into the Whitley box by danger man Mitchell, this time from open play, saw Flynn pull off a fine save from substitute Mark Doninger’s header. A crunching challenge on Nearney then brought a booking for Mitchell but two minutes later the former Darlington and Spennymoor man delivered another free kick that Whitley failed to deal with and in a near carbon copy of his previous goal, Richardson headed home the equaliser. West were now well on top and continued to benefit from dubious decisions by the officials, frustrating an increasingly stretched Whitley side.
Into the final ten minutes, Wilkinson bravely challenged for the ball as it flew into the goalmouth but went down injured. After a lengthy delay for treatment he had to be helped off the field and was taken to hospital suffering from severe concussion. An x-ray later indicated he had suffered soft tissue damage but thankfully no fracture.
With Callum Anderson still recovering from injury Whitley had no central defender available as a replacement, so they were forced into a reshuffle with Connor Campbell coming off the bench for the closing stages. When play resumed, Whitley pushed forward and the most controversial incident of the entire game came in the 90th minute when substitute Scott Jasper drilled a shot towards goal and defender Denver Morris appeared to handle the ball on the line, deflecting it away from goal as Kyle Patton slid in to try and apply the finishing touch. There were huge appeals from the Bay players and fans behind the goal but the officials were unmoved and when the ball ran loose it was hit over the bar by Charmey. Patton was injured and needed treatment but with all three substitutions made, he remained on the pitch but with reduced mobility.
Eight minutes into stoppage time, and following a throw in on the right, Mitchell got a shot on goal but Flynn got a hand on the ball to push it out but it fell for Wearmouth who lashed it high into the net to put West in front for the first time in the game. At that stage it looked like there would be no time for Whitley to respond but in fact a further four minutes were played and in the tenth added minute, they had a great chance to level it and send the game into extra time but Jasper’s header from a narrow angle near the back post went agonisingly the wrong side of the upright. That was the last chance of the game and at the final whistle there were wild celebrations from the home side while the Bay players sunk to their knees in despair.