WHITLEY Bay continued their recent improvement with an impressive 3-1 win at Ashington.
The Colliers went into the game in buoyant mood – beaten only once in their previous 12 league games and having knocked Spennymoor out of the FA Vase the previous week.
Bay went into the game missing four players through injury as they looked to retain their unbeaten record at Woodhorn Lane.
The game also saw Chris Fawcett and Phill Bell come face to face after the pair recently switched clubs with fawcett returning to Bay and Bell moving back to Ashington.
Both appear to have benefited from the move and it can be little coincidence that Whitley’s improved form has followed Fawcett’s return, which has seen much more width in their attacking play.
Fawcett was much the more impressive of the two on the day and it was he who created the opening goal.
Whitley began in confident style with Robbie Dale setting Fawcett up for a chance which keeper Karl Dryden did well to block.
Fawcett was determined to make his presence felt and a few minutes later he raced down the right and crossed for Chow but Dryden saved.
In a rare counter-attack, Andrew Johnson tested Kyle Hayes with a shot that the Bay keeper pushed over the bar.
Ashington suffered a major set back after just ten minutes when winger Jonny Godsmark pulled up with a hamstring injury and had to be replaced.
Without his pace the home side proved to be a much less potent force in attack whereas Whitley, playing with two wingers of contrasting styles in Dale and Fawcett, caused all sorts of problems for the home defence.
Dale, operating on the left wing, was repeatedly getting the better of Paul Buzzeo and the Ashington defender was booked for a clumsy tackle.
After 26 minutes Whitley’s pressure paid off when Fawcett seized onto a misplaced pass in midfield and raced clear on the right before delivering an excellent low cross into the goalmouth where Chow slid the ball into the net for his 150th goal for the club.
Whitley continued to have the better of the game but Ashington had more possession as the half drew to a close.
Just before the interval a heavy challenge by Colliers defender James Taylor went unpunished by a referee who cautioned several players from both sides.
Ashington’s hopes of getting back into the game during the second half were quickly extinguished as Whitley struck twice in the first seven minutes.
Just 30 seconds after the resumption, David Coulson almost doubled the lead when he hooked a cross from the right only inches over the bar from just in front of the near post.
In a strikingly similar move four minutes later, Brian Smith at the near post met an in-swinging corner from David Pounder with a looping header which dipped over Dryden and into the opposite corner.
Whitley were straight back on the attack and barely two minutes later, Paul Robinson’s precise ball from midfield found Dale on the left.
He worked his way down the wing before cutting in past two defenders. Rather than going for goal himself, he took the ball round Dryden and played it into the goalmouth for Chow to slot home from close range.
Shortly before the hour mark Dryden was almost caught out as he failed to hold a shot from Chow but he recovered to block the rebound from Fawcett.
Ashington began to impose themselves more as the game progressed.
Andrew Johnson’s free kick midway through the half bringing a fine diving save from Hayes.
Two minutes later, home spirits were lifted when Gareth Bainbridge received the ball from Mullen and drove a great shot past Hayes into the top corner.
The home fans, who had been subdued since Whitley’s double strike, were roused and tried to inspire a fight back from their side, but without Godsmark, and with Bell being granted no favours by a well marshalled Bay defence, they were unable to seriously threaten Hayes in the Bay goal.
They had claims for a penalty turned down as they pushed forward late on but could have few complaints over the outcome.
For Whitley, in addition to Dale, there were impressive performances from Fawcett, Robinson and Callum Anderson in what was an excellent all round team effort.
With the injured players not expected to make an immediate return and with both Fawcett and Anderson now suspended, Whitley will be looking in the next few games to youngsters such as Kyle Downey and Michael McMullen, both of whom came off the bench in the closing stages, to grasp their opportunity and stake their claim for a regular place.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Anderson (McMullen 90 mins), Pounder, Smith, Coulson, Kerr (Reid 67 mins), Fawcett, Robson, Dale (Downey 80 mins), Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Kindley, Rowe.