Whitley Bay began the new season with a hard fought draw at Hillheads against a Consett side who are strongly tipped to be among the front runners in the Northern League this year.
Both of Whitley’s goals came from Paul Chow, starting his eighth season at Hillheads and now with 253 goals to his name and edging ever closer to Billy Wright’s club record of 307.
The home side gave debuts to two summer signings, Michael Laws and Robbie Bird, but injuries and holiday commitments meant that they were without four key members of their squad.
In warm, summer sunshine, Consett started strongly and soon put the below strength Bay defence under pressure, with Slocombe firing a low shot across goal and beyond the far post inside the third minute.
Shortly afterwards, Bay keeper Mark Cook had to push a looping effort over the bar, and from the resulting corner, visiting captain Dan Madden drove the ball wide of the target.
It took Whitley until the ninth minute to mount an attack on the Consett goal, but when they did, Chow made it count with a fierce shot from 20 yards out on the right that took a slight deflection off the head of a defender and keeper Dan Regan failed to grasp the ball as it flew over him and into the net.
The visitors were soon back on the attack but determined defending by Whitley kept them out,
Cook made several crucial saves to deny the dangerous strike partnership of Luke Sullivan and Michael Mackay.
With 26 minutes played, Whitley threatened when Bird broke free on the right but Regan raced out to block his shot, and a minute later another Bird effort was deflected wide of goal by the keeper.
Just past the half hour, Cook had to be alert to push a shot from Mackay onto the roof of the net.
But in the 35th minute, Consett’s prolific striker was not to be denied when following another save from Cook, he latched on to a ball from Chapim and his angled shot went in off the far post.
The equaliser was no more than the Steelmen deserved and Whitley were put under further pressure as the half drew to a close.
The sides went in all square at the interval but Consett had been the more impressive side with Whitley struggling to gain a grip of midfield.
Another debutant, Marc Ellison, replaced Craig Smith after half-time but Consett were still having the greater share of possession and they went ahead after 55 minutes thanks to Michael Pearson’s shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.
A minute later they might have increased their lead but a shot flashed just past the post.
The Bay defenders were struggling to cope with the Consett front men and when Adam Nicholls surged forward in another dangerous looking attack, Michael Laws, the most assured of the Bay defenders, was cautioned for bringing him down as he was about to go clear on goal.
As the game progressed, the threat from the visitors gradually diminished and failure to convert their chances left them susceptible to a late Whitley fightback.
They were made to pay when 12 minutes from time, Chow was tripped just inside the 18-yard box by veteran defender Mark Eccles.
Referee Graeme Hopper had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Chow confidently dispatched the spot kick, sending Regan the wrong way to level the score.
In the closing stages, both sides went in search of a winner and it looked as if Mackay would give the visitors the points when he seized onto a high ball that went over the head of Liam Harris, but to the relief of the young Bay defender and the majority of the 379 spectators, the experienced Consett striker spurned the opportunity.
Then in the last minute of the 90, Whitley almost snatched victory when Chris McDonald’s free kick eluded Regan and crashed off the bar, with Tom Bott hitting the rebound straight at the relieved keeper.
In the end, both sides had to settle for a draw, but Steve Foster, taking charge of the Bay side in the absence of manager Leon Ryan, was unhappy with the way Whitley defended, especially after conceding the two goals.
Consett boss Kenny Lindoe, who admitted that he would have gladly taken a point ahead of the game, was reasonably content with the outcome, although he felt his team had just about deserved all three points but had lacked the finishing necessary to break down what he described as tough opponents.
Lindoe also praised the Hillheads playing surface, which was in immaculate condition.
Whitley Bay: Cook, Brooking, McDonald, Harris, Laws, Smith (Ellison 45), McFarlane (Buzzeo 75), Anderson, Bott, Chow, Bird. Subs not used: Kempster, Day, Berry.