Whitley Bay 4
Seaham Red Star 2
Whitley got the new season off to an excellent start, playing some attractive, attacking football on a playing surface that was immaculate after its summer maintenance.
With six players making their debut and only three of last season’s squad in the starting 11, it was very much a new-look side that Andy Gowens had assembled during the close season, containing a good blend of youth and experience.
The game got under way at a rapid pace with the visitors blazing an early shot high out of the ground and into the car park. Playing more controlled football, Whitley went close when a shot from Kevin Carr drifted wide, but in the 14th minute they opened the scoring after a perfectly-placed through ball from Luke Salmon split the Seaham defence and Jack Foalle used his pace to race clear and slot the ball past the advancing keeper from 15 yards.
Seven minutes later another ball played in by Salmon was volleyed over the bar by Foalle.
Seaham went close soon afterwards when a low ball across the face of goal flew just beyond the far post.
In the 28th minute, a good attacking move by Whitley ended with Dan Taggart’s shot going narrowly wide of the target.
However, the former Morpeth and Team Northumbria striker was celebrating eight minutes later when he eluded two defenders and drilled the ball into the net after Glen-Ravenhill had played Foalle’s ball back across the six-yard box.
Whitley fans and perhaps the players were still celebrating when barely 60 seconds later, Seaham pulled a goal back, Andrew Johnston getting on the end of a free kick to bundle the ball over the line.
It was a warning that the game was far from over but Whitley were deservedly in front at the interval.
Three minutes into the second half, Olly Martin brought a fine save from keeper Andrew Hunter who fingertipped his goalbound effort wide of the target.
Whitley had started the half well and they regained their two-goal lead in the 53rd minute when Taggart got on the end of Salmon’s cross into the goalmouth leaving Hunter helpless.
Whitley were looking much the better side now and Seaham were unable to cope with Foalle’s speed. A clumsy late challenge on the Bay striker as he burst clear down the right earned defender Ross Toward a second yellow card leaving the visitors to play the final 25 minutes with 10 men.
Moments later, Martin was replaced by another debutant, teenager Jack Cooper and with his first touch of the ball, the youngster brought a splendid save from Hunter who just managed to push his powerful shot over the bar.
From the resultant left-wing corner, Luke Salmon caught out the depleted Seaham defence as he came in at the back post to nod the ball into the net, putting Whitley into an unassailable 4-1 lead.
Central defender Gavin Caines, whose vast experience showed through in a calm and confident display, was substituted in the final quarter as yet another debutant, 18-year-old Luke Taylor came off the bench.
The youngster nearly set up a fifth Bay goal 10 minutes from time with a superb cross field ball from inside his own half to Glen-Ravenhill out on the right.
When the Bay skipper played the ball into the box, it led to an incredible series of shots as the ball ricocheted around the six-yard box. The Seaham defence bravely threw themselves in front of everything Whitley attempted, including shots from Taggart and a diving header from Salmon.
Eventually the ball was cleared and seven minutes from time, Taylor’s attempted clearance from a cross into the box at the other end flew into the net to give the visitors a somewhat fortuitous second goal.
The final score suggested a closer contest than had been the case but what mattered most to Whitley was a winning start to the season and a team performance where every player made a valuable contribution.
WHITLEY BAY: Flynn, A Redford, Salmon, R Redford, Caines(Taylor 68mins), Anderson, Glen-Ravenhill, Carr(Hall 78mins) Taggart, Foalle, Martin(Cooper 65mins). Substitutes not used: Brannen, Proctor. Cautions: Carr, Anderson. Referee: Alex Clark. Attendance: 293
On Saturday Whitley set out on the FA Cup trail with a visit to West Yorkshire to play Bradford side Thackley in the Extra Preliminary Round of the competition. If the game is drawn, the replay will be at Hillheads on Tuesday evening, otherwise Whitley will be away to Dunston UTS that night.