WHITLEY Bay’s first game since Christmas brought a stunning display of goal scoring as they swept aside the challenge of Hebburn Town, who were unbeaten in their previous five league games.
There were fears that the long lay off might have led to Whitley losing some of the sharpness that had seen them win their previous seven games but if anything, they looked hungrier than ever and produced a superb performance. Every single member of the side played their part, much to the delight of manager Ian Chandler.
Whitley looked lively from the whistle, attacking with pace down both wings. It took a timely tackle from Hebburn captain Chris Jewels to deny Craig McFarlane a clear run on goal after Paul Robinson had played a neat through ball into the 18 yard box.
Then after a strong tackle on McFarlane by Andrew Brown, the ball broke for Ash Davis who burst through the Hebburn defence before unleashing a low shot from 20 yards that flew past keeper Dan Regan into the corner of the net to give Whitley a sixth minute lead.
This was the perfect start and it nearly got better three minutes later when Paul Chow laid the ball back into the path of Chris Fawcett who fired the ball just beyond the far post.
Hebburn were playing their part and a slip by Paul Robinson allowed Paul Gardiner to break away from midfield but his final ball failed to trouble Kyle Hayes.
Fawcett found space on the left and raced past a defender before taking the ball to the by-line where he played it back across goal but Jewels averted the danger, heading the ball clear. After 18 minutes, Davis produced a similar run to that which brought the goal but this time he fired the ball over the bar.
Hebburn were passing the ball around well in midfield but rarely broke through a resolute Bay defence in which Reid and Anderson won most of the high balls. The visitors’ best efforts came from Robson and Nicholson but were lacking power and accuracy.
In contrast, Regan needed two attempts to hold a shot from Lee Kerr but with only one goal separating the sides, the game was still wide open. However, that changed with just a minute of the half remaining.
A clumsy tackle on Brad Brooking by Andrew Brown earned the Hebburn man a yellow card and further punishment quickly followed when James Novak curled the resultant 25-yard free kick beyond the reach of Regan and into the net off the inside of the near post.
The second half began with Hebburn trying to get back in the game and almost immediately Hayes had to make a diving save to keep out a low shot from Stephen Forster.
Novak’s cross from the left was cleared just ahead of Paul Chow then at the other end, Hayes made a good save, blocking a shot when the ball was played through on goal.
Whitley were creating more chances though, and Robinson went close after skilful play took him past Jewels.
The game was made safe with two goals in as many minutes midway through the half.
The first came when Robinson played the ball in from the left to Fawcett, who in turn laid it off to the unmarked Lee Kerr, who clipped a delightful right footed shot over the Hebburn defence from about 25 yards out, the ball dipping just under the bar giving Regan no chance.
The cheering had barely died down when Whitley added their fourth, Novak lashing home his second of the game from ten yards, a shot into the roof of the net from a narrow angle after excellent build up play from Robinson.
The next ten minutes saw both sides make substitutions, LeePaul Scroggins replacing Callum Anderson, who had given an excellent defensive performance despite suffering from a stomach bug.
David Pounder and James Fairley were also brought on for the final quarter of the game, and Fairley made an instant impact.
Moments after replacing Fawcett, he intercepted the ball near the half way line and shook off the challenge of at least three Hebburn players before taking the ball wide of central defender Dan Kirkup and firing beyond Regan from 12 yards.
It was a tremendous solo effort and arguably the goal of the game, although all five were goals of the highest quality.
Hebburn were now facing their heaviest defeat of the season and their day went from bad to worse just two minutes later when their frustration boiled over.
Scroggins was penalised for a foul on Gardiner but captain Chris Jewels got involved and his comments to referee Elton Martin ended with him being shown a red card.
Down to ten men for the final 12 minutes of the game, Hebburn might have conceded a sixth goal when Fairley was allowed the freedom of midfield and raced through to the edge of the penalty area before passing to Davis, whose shot drifted just wide of goal.
At the final whistle, Whitley were deservedly given a rousing reception by the crowd of just over 400 fans, who had witnessed a thoroughly entertaining game – one which extended Whitley’s winning run to eight games and puts them in good heart ahead of the FA Vase tie at Brantham next weekend.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Brooking, Novak, Anderson (Scroggins 65), Reid, McFarlane, Fawcett (Fairley 75), Davis, Kerr, Chow, Robinson (Pounder 73). Subs not used: Watson, B Smith.