Whitley Bay 1-4 Morpeth Town
Whitley produced a battling display against league leaders Morpeth Town in a game that was much closer than the final score would suggest.
It was a huge improvement on the performance at Bishop Auckland two days earlier and the result was in doubt until the last ten minutes, when the visitors added two late goals.
Two days before his 18th birthday, Kieran Brannen was handed his full debut, having previously made several substitute appearances. His inclusion in the starting eleven was fully justified as he caused problems for the Morpeth defence throughout the game and he deservedly won the man of the match award.
Morpeth started confidently and created three chances in the opening minutes without really testing Tom Flynn. However, the visitors got their noses in front in the 14th minute with a well placed shot from Jordan Fry that flew past Flynn just inside the near post.
Whitley responded positively and Liam Brooks was almost through on goal when an offside flag was raised. Two minutes later, Michael Bell was tripped on the edge of the penalty area and Tom Potter’s free kick was pushed round the post by keeper Karl Dryden.
Just before the half hour, Potter’s through ball almost set Brannen clear but Dryden was alert to the danger and got the ball just ahead of the young midfielder. Sayer then went close for Morpeth before Flynn made a good save to thwart Taylor. Whitley were very much in the game and a 34th minute strike by Potter brought a second fine save from Dryden who got strong hands on the ball and pushed it over the top. From the resultant corner, Walker fired over the bar. An entertaining half ended with Morpeth deservedly one goal ahead but Whitley had created several good chances of their own.
Two minutes after the interval, a tremendous run by Brannen took him into the Morpeth box where he was dispossessed following a strong challenge. Carson then drove a shot straight at Flynn before Whitley went back on the attack and very nearly snatched an equaliser. Callum Johnston raced through to intercept a back pass and poked the ball beyond Dryden but he could not get quite enough power on the shot and former Bay defender Chris Reid managed to get back and clear the ball almost off the line.
Whitley were enjoying a good spell and after Bell drilled a shot just past the post, Reid was cautioned after tugging Johnston back as the youngster was racing towards the 18 yard box. The free kick that followed was almost a replica of an earlier effort, with Dryden making an excellent save to deny Potter.
Despite Whitley’s pressure, Morpeth were still a threat and shortly after Sayer went close, his well flighted 63rd minute free kick was headed home at the back post by Sean Taylor, to put the Highwaymen in control. If they harboured any thoughts that the game was won, these were dispelled in the 71st minute when Potter did well down the right and his low cross into the goalmouth left Liam Brooks with a simple tap-in from two yards. Three minutes later substitute Tom Bramley went close with a header as Whitley pushed for an equaliser. Dryden then needed a second attempt to hold onto a fierce drive from Jack Walker as the ball almost squirmed out of his hands.
A third Morpeth goal in the 80th minute proved crucial when Henderson set up Joe Walton whose powerful shot appeared to leave Flynn unsighted as it flashed past him into the net.
The excitement was still not over and within two minutes of replacing Brannen, another of Bay’s teenagers, 18 year old Regan Paterson raced down the left before unleashing a shot across Dryden which beat the keeper and cannoned off the inside of the post before rebounding to safety.
Chances continued to come and with two minutes left, Taylor skied a shot high over the bar but in the final seconds of stoppage time, another of the former Whitley players in the Morpeth side, Wayne Phillips, drove a shot from the edge of the box into the far corner of the net to give the championship chasing visitors a rather flattering margin of victory.