THIS match between two of the top four teams in the STL Northern League was ‘a game of two halves’.
Playing down the slope, Whitley Bay were well on top in the first half and deservedly led Sunderland RCA 2-0 at the interval.
And if they had gone in with a bigger lead there could have been few complaints from the home side.
But the second 45 minutes saw a complete turn around with poor defending allowing a rejuvenated RCA back in the game, while a controversial decision in the last five minutes saw the home side score a drmatic winner from the penalty spot.
With Robbie Dale back ay Blyth on loan, Lee Kerr renewed his strike partnership with Paul Chow.
Callum Anderson was unavailable and LeePaul Scroggins was suspended, while Damon Robson, Chris Reid and David Coulson, although named on the bench, were still recovering from injury.
With the strong breeze at their backs, Whitley were soon on top and when Chow’s shot was blocked, Kerr fired the rebound over the bar.
Keeping the ball on the ground and with Chris Fawcett and Michael McMullen using the width of the pitch, Whitley were playing better than they had for several games.
On 18 minutes Paul Robinson, pictured, won possession before firing in a 30-yard shot that was saved by keeper Neal Atkinson.
Two minutes later, Whitley were in front when Robinson surged past two defenders before striking a great shot from the edge of the area low into the corner of the net.
The visitors went two up on 26 minutes when a tremendous 35-yard shot from David Pounder beat Atkinson and went in off the underside of the bar.
At the other end, Tom Berj headed over the bar shortly before the break.
The Ryhope club were forced into two substitutions with McGuinness being replaced by former Baydefender Ian Dixon, who lasted little over ten minutes before he too was injured and limped off.
The second half began with Whitley still forcing the pace, and Robinson might have added a third after 55 minutes but his shot was pushed behind by Atkinson.
The game suddenly changed on the hour, just after tall striker Andy Jennings had been brought on by RCA and Brian Smith had replaced McMullen in an attempt to counter the new aerial threat.
On 61 minutes, James Oates fired the ball into the roof of the net from a right wing corner, then barely two minutes later, Mark Davison levelled the score with an excellent shot from distance that crept through a gap in the Bay defence and just inside the far post.
Whitley retaliated with Gary Ormston being denied by Steven Jones, who deflected the ball over.
The visiting fans were given renewed hope after 72 minutes when a Whitley corner was only half cleared and Robinson’s ball found Pounder who slotted home his second of the game from just inside the right corner of the penalty area.
The lead was short lived, however, as Whitley again failed to deal with a right wing corner and Atkinson was allowed a free header to make it 3-3 with 12 minutes to go.
Whitley were under pressure and struggled to retain possession, but it looked as if they would get a share of the spoils until RCA were awarded a penalty with five minutes to go.
RCA captain Brian Close went to ground as Gareth Williams challenged and the referee pointed to the spot, even though Close looked to have lost his footing before the tackle.
Joe Walton beat Hayes from the spot to put RCA ahead for the first time in the game.
Whitley still had time to level the score but Kerr’s free kick from just outside the box failed to find the target.
A game that looked to have been won by half-time was lost as a result of poor defendings.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Williams, Pounder, McMullen (Smith 60 mins), Ormston, Timmons, McFarlane, Fawcett, Kerr, Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Rowe, Coulson, Reid, Robson.