Five second half goals see Whitley Bay overrun Celtic Nation

Alex Kempster fires home Whitley Bay's third goal in the 6-1 win at Celtic Nation.
Alex Kempster fires home Whitley Bay's third goal in the 6-1 win at Celtic Nation.

After an evenly matched opening 45 minutes, a rampant Whitley Bay completely overwhelmed Celtic Nation in the second half to record an emphatic victory and their third win in ten days.

The Cumbrians were Northern League runners-up last season, but since then their fortunes have nose-dived and they are now embroiled in what seems an increasingly forlorn bid to escape relegation.

Craig McFarlane was unavailable so Phil Cave took his place in the only change from the Bay side that defeated Dunston on Saturday.

The first half gave little indication of what was to follow as the Carlisle side showed an abundance of energy, denying Whitley time to settle and battling for every ball.

The hosts enjoyed most of the possession in the early stages but in their first attack the visitors might have taken the lead.

Peter Watling played Robbie Bird clear just inside the Nation half and he raced through on goal only to be denied by keeper Jamie Greenall.

A minute later Bird was the provider but Alex Kempster’s effort was pushed wide.

The hosts were endeavouring to stretch the Bay defence and it was the experienced former Whitley winger Dean Douglas who was providing the main threat for the Cumbrians down the right flank.

It was from that wing that Chris McDonald set up another chance for the visitors, a neat pass to Watling being played wide to Kempster who closed in on goal but crashed his shot against the post when it might have been a better option to square the ball.

At the other end, Thomas Flynn drew applause for an excellent save after 27 minutes, pushing a 25-yard attempt from James Earl over the bar.

Both sides were creating chances and on the half hour Bird beat the Celtic offside trap to set Sam Norris clear on goal, but again Greenall did well to block the shot.

Just as it seemed that the half would end goal less, Whitley forced a corner, and although the ball was initially cleared, it was played back into the box where Bird was tripped. Referee Mick McDonough had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Watling comfortably beat Greenall with the penalty to put Whitley in front with what proved to be the last kick of the half.

Three minutes after the restart, the hosts could have been level after McDonald lost possession, but a rasping shot from Douglas was superbly palmed away by Flynn.

The importance of that save was clear to see just two minutes later when Whitley doubled their lead.

Scott Blandford played the ball over the top and this time Bird took full advantage, closing in on goal before slotting the ball under the advancing Greenall.

The goal knocked the confidence out of the hosts, and after Kempster had fired over the bar when well placed, the youngster made no mistake on 61 minutes with a clinical finish after Bird had put him clear.

Whitley were in complete control and a ball from Kempster over the top of a tiring defence gave Watling the chance to get his second of the night and his 23rd of the season as he finished with aplomb.

Four goals ahead and with 20 minutes still to play, Whitley could have been forgiven for relaxing, but a brief lapse in concentration saw them concede when a free kick was headed home by Lee Otway.

It briefly re-ignited the home side and they pushed forward, more in hope than expectation, but with Flynn looking confident in goal, Whitley were not seriously troubled and despite the substitution of Bird and Watling they came back strongly in the closing stages.

Andrew McBride, signed last week, was given a taste of the action but it was fellow substitute Hylton Laws who set up a chance for Kempster but his attempt was blocked.

Three minutes from time Whitley completed a nap hand when Blandford rose unchallenged to head home from McBride’s left wing corner.

Just 50 seconds later Kempster got his second of the night to make it 6-1 after being played through by Andy Ferrell.

The Nation defence was in disarray and Kempster went close to adding a seventh before the final whistle saved the hosts from further punishment.

Paddy Atkinson was naturally delighted with his team’s performance but was quick to pay tribute to Celtic Nation for their energy and battling spirit in the first half.

He felt that Whitley’s second half dominance resulted from a change of shape at half-time with two centre midfielders; and with players getting behind the ball more quickly they were able to set up more attacking moves.

“I’m very pleased. We’re on a bit of a roll now and there are a lot more happy faces in the dressing room,” he said.

Whitley Bay: Flynn, Cave, McDonald, Ferrell, Laws, McGarr, Norris, Blandford, Watling (H Laws 85), Bird (McBride 73), Kempster.