Whitley Bay swept aside the challenge of Hebburn Town with consummate ease on Tuesday night in a game where the irrepressible Paul Chow once again stole the headlines.
The lethal striker, who comfortably tops the Ebac Northern League first division scoring charts, bagged four goals in a game for the second time this season.
Indeed, his hat-trick came in a ten-minute spell, beating his previous quickest when he scored three in 12 minutes in a 6-2 victory over Bishop Auckland back in 2009.
This performance, albeit against a side struggling second from the foot of the table, was just what Whitley needed as they set about putting the disappointment of their FA Vase exit behind them.
Ian Chandler rang the changes and with Tom Kindley unavailable, Michael Hammond made his first appearance of the season for the senior side.
He was rarely called upon and he will have had many busier games as keeper for the reserves.
Whitley started brightly and with less than six minutes played Craig Smith headed just over the bar from a left wing corner.
Good approach work from Chow and Craig McFarlane set up Phil Airey for a shot that crashed off the bar after 12 minutes, but two minutes later they deservedly took the lead.
The goal came when Brad Brooking cut in from the left and his shot hit Hebburn keeper Gary Rogers in the face, with the ball rebounding to Chow who slotted home with the keeper on the ground and in some discomfort.
Michael McMullen caused problems for the Hebburn defence with his pace down the right wing and in the 20th minute he raced through and put Chow clear on goal with an inch perfect pass which the Bay captain fired beyond Rogers to put Whitley two up.
Four minutes later McFarlane crossed from the right and when Airey’s mis-hit shot took a rebound, Chow was on hand to drill home from close range to complete his quick fire hat-trick.
Five minutes later came what was arguably the goal of the game as James Novak struck a tremendous low shot from over 20 yards out on the left. The ball curled past a statuesque keeper and went in off the far post to put the home side 4-0 ahead with less than half an hour on the clock.
It began to look as if it could be a rout as Whitley piled forward with Hebburn struggling to get the ball out of their own half.
Alex Kempster had a shot saved after McMullen and Airey had combined well in the build up.
Airey then had a shot bravely blocked by Rogers as Whitley continued in the ascendency.
Play was held up shortly before the interval when Stephen Buzzeo suffered what appeared to be a ligament injury and was replaced by Chris Fawcett.
The first half action was not over yet and when McMullen again broke clear on the right, his cross to the near post was headed past Rogers at point blank range by Chow for his fourth goal of the half, giving Whitley a 5-0 interval lead.
The game was effectively won and it was no real surprise that the second half failed to match the first for excitement and goals.
The only addition to the score came on the hour when McMullen’s low cross beat the Hebburn defence and Kempster got in just ahead of Chow and bundled the ball across the line, with both player and ball ending up in the back of the net.
Jarrett Rivers, who had contributed well from midfield, was replaced by Robbie Livermore for the final 20 minutes as Whitley coasted to victory, the game gradually being slowed down and resembling something more like a practice match.
However, Chow still had the appetite for more goals and was clearly frustrated when after rounding Rogers wide on the right of the penalty area, his angled shot across goal drifted beyond the far post.
Whitley’s defence was never seriously tested but they did all that was required, a late effort from Matthew Hornsby a rare attempt which failed to trouble Hammond.
To their undoubted credit, Hebburn kept going and did not lose their discipline; indeed, there was not a bad challenge by either side and referee Shaun Hudson is unlikely to have an easier game to manage all season.
While this was a game that Whitley would have been expected to win comfortably, Hebburn’s recent form, which included a win at West Auckland and only a narrow defeat at Dunston, suggested that they might have proved sterner opponents, but the chances of them causing another upset were ended by Whitley’s storming first half display.
Whitley Bay: Hammond, Brooking, Novak, McFarlane, Smith, Buzzeo (Fawcett 40 mins), McMullen, Rivers (Livermore 69 mins), Airey, Chow, Kempster.