Dunston once again end Whitley Bay’s FA Vase challenge

Whitley Bay and Dunston UTS players honour of the First World War Christmas truce in 1914 before kick-off in Saturday's FA Vase game.
Whitley Bay and Dunston UTS players honour of the First World War Christmas truce in 1914 before kick-off in Saturday's FA Vase game.

For the second season running Dunston UTS knocked Whitley Bay out of the FA Vase at the third round stage.

In the clash of the former FA Vase winners, Bay failed to perform anywhere near their best and were well beaten.

Saturday’s first half display was particularly disappointing and the game could have been all over by the interval if Dunston had made the most of their chances.

As it was, the two-goal lead they established proved sufficient, although a Paul Chow penalty midway through the second half kept Whitley’s hopes alive until the final whistle.

The main talking point for Bay fans ahead of kick-off focused on team selection, with top scorer Chow surprisingly omitted from the starting 11 and left back Chris McDonald also only making the bench.

Playing a lone striker failed to work in last season’s game against Dunston and the same policy was once again unsuccessful.

In Dunston’s line-up were two of Whitley’s Wembley Vase winning heroes, defender David Coulson and midfielder Gary Ormston, and both played a part in their side’s crucial second goal.

Dunston looked the livelier and more dangerous side right from the start and after five minutes Dan Gladstone had to race out of his goal to beat an on-rushing Dunston striker to a long ball over the back line.

Two minutes later Paul Robinson advanced on goal and drove a shot just over the bar from 20 yards, but that was about as good as it got for Whitley during the opening half.

Dunston went ahead after 13 minutes when they capitalised on sloppy defending, Stephen Harrison taking advantage of hesitancy by Robbie Bird near the byline.

Rather than putting the ball into touch, Bird attempted to keep it in play but was robbed by Harrison who cut in before angling a low shot past Gladstone into the far corner of the net.

The early goal failed to spark Whitley into any real response, with Peter Watling’s ball across goal from Robinson’s pass six minutes later not troubling Liam Connell in the Dunston goal.

It seemed like an opportunity wasted as Connell had fallen after taking a high ball and appeared to have injured his shoulder, but Whitley made no attempt to test the keeper in the minutes following his injury.

Brad Brooking, on his 100th appearance, looked the only Bay player likely to pose a threat, making several surging runs down the right before seeing his final ball cut out.

Dunston threatened to double their lead after 36 minutes when Andrew Bulford won the ball midway inside the Bay half and raced clear, but with Gladstone coming out to narrow his angle he placed his shot wide of the far post.

Three minutes later the visitors did get a second and it was Coulson who struck with a great first time effort from 25 yards after a free kick had been only half cleared.

Coulson scored 36 goals for Whitley, a remarkable total for a defender, but most were with his head and few if any were from as far out as this one.

Now back to his best following injury, his goal and commanding display at the centre of the Dunston defence proved to be a man of the match performance.

The visitors continued to dominate and fully deserved their 2-0 interval lead.

Whitley needed to change their formation and personnel if they were to get back in the game, but it was ten minutes into the second half before they did so.

Alex Kempster, now recovered from injury, replaced Jonny Godsmark, who had not made an impact on the right wing. Bird switched to the right with Kempster operating on the left.

Whitley now began to look more positive and after Watling curled a shot wide from 15 yards, Leon Ryan’s header from Robinson’s cross almost set up a chance for Kempster, who almost immediately threatened down the left as for the first time in the game Dunston were put under some degree of pressure.

A second Whitley substitution on the hour saw Chow finally make his entrance in place of Robinson, who had made a disappointing return to the side following suspension.

Just 60 seconds later, Chow forced his way through on goal but his shot was blocked.

Dunston captain Michael Dixon, who moments earlier been cautioned for a foul, just managed to head the ball past the far post after Chris Reid, on the edge of the six-yard box, had attempted to get on the end of a corner from Kempster.

With 20 minutes remaining, Whitley got back in the game when Kempster played the ball down the left to Watling who cut in but was tripped by Harrison as he broke into the 18-yard box. Referee Chris Keightley had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, a clear cut decision which brought few protests from the visitors.

Chow confidently beat Connell from the spot for his 19th goal of the season and suddenly, playing with two men up front, Whitley were back in the game.

However, the threat from Dunston was ever present and they might have restored their advantage within 90 seconds of the restart when the dangerous Bulford broke away but shot over the bar.

Three minutes later he had another opportunity when Reid slipped and let him clear on goal but Gladstone made a fine blocking save.

The heavy pitch was creating difficulties for both sides and passes were going astray, causing frustration for the players and spectators alike.

After less than two minutes on the pitch, Dunston substitute Jonny Wightman was cautioned for bringing down Brooking in full flight, then a few minutes later he was lucky not to be dismissed after kicking the ball away when conceding a free kick.

Yellow cards continued to be brandished as Harrison was then booked for a poor challenge on Kempster before Craig McFarlane was also cautioned for a foul.

Despite just holding a single goal lead, Dunston seemed to be comfortably in control as they played out the closing stages without undue alarm, but in the 90th minute Chow almost forced extra time when his shot from ten yards looked destined for the bottom corner as it beat the despairing dive of Connell only for defender Dan Halliday to get a foot to the ball to deflect it inches past the post.

Whitley were unable to conjure anything more in stoppage time and for the second successive season they went out of the competition in the third round.

Dunston manager Billy Irwin felt his side had fully deserved their victory with every player contributing to their success, and few could disagree.

In contrast, Ryan was bitterly disappointed, saying: “We just didn’t do enough, we didn’t show up in the first half.”

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, McFarlane, Anderson, Ryan, Reid, Godsmark (Kempster 55), Laws, Watling, Bird, Robinson (Chow 60).