Whitley Bay’s Northern League season began with a heavy 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Dunston UTS on Saturday.
But there was little sign of what was to come as they dominated the opening quarter of the game.
The match between two recent FA Vase winners was one of 150 non-league games across the country selected to commemorate Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day, a celebration of grassroots football, and was preceded by small sided games involving Whitley’s Academy youngsters.
Bay had four players making their league debut, Josh Carmichael, Paul Antony, Ryan McGorrigan and Jarrett Rivers, while Dunston included former Whitley midfielder Gary Ormston among their new signings.
Whitley started the better and with just two minutes played, Antony’s free kick was pushed onto the post by Dunston keeper Liam Connell, who was grateful and a little fortunate to see the ball rebound into his grasp.
Four minutes later, a shot from McGorrigan crashed off the keeper and onto the crossbar as the visitors’ goal enjoyed a charmed life.
Whitley were playing some good attacking football and after 13 minutes McGorrigan again went close but fired his shot just wide of the post.
The pressure was unsettling the Dunston defence and two minutes later Paul Chow burst through on goal only to be tugged back by Jack Burns. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot but allowed Burns to escape without even a caution.
Chow took the penalty himself but his shot struck the base of the post, but Jarrett Rivers was first to react and drilled the rebound past Connell to give Whitley a well deserved lead.
The home side continued to dominate proceedings and barely two minutes later another shot from McGorrigan was held above his head by Connell.
Dunston had failed to create any chances in the opening 20 minutes, but when their first opportunity came they made it count, drawing level after 22 minutes when Danny Craggs struck an excellent 20-yard shot into the top corner, giving Carmichael little chance.
Dunston gradually came more into the game but neither keeper was seriously tested and it began to look as if the sides would go in level at half-time.
However, seven minutes before the interval a cross from the right by Dunston’s Nicholas Kane was fumbled by Carmichael, who appeared to slip as he went for the ball, leaving Michael Dixon with a simple tap-in from close range to put the visitors in front.
The second half saw Dunston in complete control and they increased their lead after 51 minutes when Ben Cattanach was allowed space inside the Bay penalty area to head home a cross from the right.
A long range free kick from Craggs was pushed over the bar by Carmichael, but three minutes later Ormston fired a low shot into the corner of the net to end any hopes of a Whitley recovery. The home side created little in the remaining half hour, and while youngsters McGorrigan and Rivers both worked hard, they made little impression as a strong Dunston side gave them limited space, whereas Whitley’s defence struggled, with a number of players in unfamiliar positions.
The final goal of the game summed up Whitley’s second half when substitute Craig Smith, attempting to head a long ball upfield back to Carmichael, sent it looping over the keeper and into his own net.
With Chris Reid unavailable due to work commitments, Whitley lacked height at the back and heads dropped too readily once Dunston went ahead.
This was certainly not the start that manager Ian Chandler and Bay fans would have wanted, but the last time Whitley conceded five goals on the opening day of the season was back in 2008 and that year they went on to lift the FA Vase at Wembley.
Whitley Bay: Carmichael, Brooking (Fairley 68 mins), Novak, Anderson, McFarlane, Watson (C Smith 63 mins), Fawcett (McBryde 68 mins), Antony, McGorrigan, Chow, Rivers.