Bay put two past Atherton in warm-up game

Leon Ryan celebrates after scoring Whitley Bay's first goal against Atherton with less than two minutes played.
Leon Ryan celebrates after scoring Whitley Bay's first goal against Atherton with less than two minutes played.

For their latest pre-season friendly, Whitley Bay welcomed North West Counties League side Atherton Collieries to Hillheads on Saturday for what was the first ever game between the clubs.

With Paul Chow and Peter Watling both unavailable, the home side went into the game without a recognised striker.

In a reshuffled line-up, player-manager Leon Ryan gave midfielders Alex Kempster and Robbie Bird the opportunity to play up front.

Tom Bott returned to midfield while goalkeeper Mark Cook made his first appearance of the pre-season having recovered from a hand injury.

In bright sunshine and on the hottest afternoon of the summer, Whitley made the perfect start, taking the lead after just 90 seconds.

Attacking straight from the kick-off, they immediately put the visitors under pressure and forced a corner on the right.

Kempster took the flag kick and played the ball into the box where Ryan’s header was pushed away by keeper Josh Harris only for the boss to volley home the rebound from 12 yards.

Atherton responded well and four minutes later a good run from midfield by Hardcastle ended with Cook blocking his shot.

Whitley suffered a blow with just 14 minutes gone when Chris Reid limped off the field with a nasty cut on his foot which needed hospital treatment.

Six minutes later, the lead might have been doubled following a surging run down the right by Craig McFarlane. His cross into the box saw Tom Bott fire in a first time effort that was well saved by Harris.

Atherton were giving as good as they got at this stage and James Brooks was not far off target with a shot on the turn.

A mistake by Harris almost gifted Whitley a second goal when he failed to collect a cross from McFarlane, and then Craig Smith’s determined run from midfield almost brought reward.

At the other end, Atherton threatened with a number of attacking moves but they were failing to penetrate a solid Bay defence until Matty Boland fired just wide after good work from Brooks.

With the interval approaching, Whitley pushed forward again and a spectacular overhead kick from McFarlane was cleared off the line with Harris beaten. The visitors struggled to clear their lines with the ball ricocheting around the six-yard box before Harris relieved the pressure by holding onto a shot from Kempster, who was withdrawn at half-time after picking up a knock.

The second half brought a series of substitutions with water breaks helping players to cope with the hot conditions.

Atherton went close to levelling the score after 61 minutes when Brad Cooke set up a chance for Hardcastle, but Cook made a fine save to keep Bay in front.

A perfectly measured through ball from McFarlane to Bott led to Whitley’s second goal after 74 minutes.

Racing clear of a tiring Atherton defence, Bott’s strong shot proved too powerful for substitute keeper Danny Taberner who allowed the ball to slip from his grasp and roll across the line.

The side from Greater Manchester might well have let their heads drop after this misfortune, but to their credit they kept battling away and went close to reducing the arrears on at least two occasions.

Firstly Jake Patton on the right edge of the Bay penalty area curled his shot wide of the far post, then Hardcastle was denied by a good save from Cook.

Whitley’s superior fitness told in the closing stages but Atherton had provided just what was needed, another good work out against hard working and determined opponents.

Whitley Bay: Cook, McFarlane, McDonald, Smith, Ryan, Reid (S Buzzeo 14 mins), Laws, Anderson, Bird, Bott, Kempster. Second half substitutes: Harris, P Buzzeo.