Honours even in North Tyneside derby with Kempster's late equaliser
For the third game in a row, Whitley Bay earned a point with a late equaliser.
Alex Kempster’s 89th minute strike ensured Saturday’s North Tyneside derby game against North Shields at Hillheads ended all square.
It was a fair result in a game that swung first one way then the other.
The home side had the better of the first half and led at the interval, but Shields battled back strongly to take the lead before Bay pressure in the closing stages brought a dramatic climax with the honours shared.
On a sunny afternoon there was a bumper crowd of over 600 at Hillheads, and they were treated to an entertaining derby game between two of the league’s unbeaten sides.
The visitors created the first chance in the fourth minute when Marc Lancaster produced a low shot that went narrowly wide.
Whitley responded with Nicky Allen attacking down the left and his cross was played back across the goalmouth by Andy Robertson before being cleared.
Bay’s Greek defender Angelos Eleftheriadis then sent a header just wide from Jake Fowler’s cross, and continuing in the ascendency, the hosts took the lead in the 12th minute.
The goal came when Kempster crossed from the right and Shields defender Stuart Donnison deflected the ball beyond the reach of Kyle Hayes and Adam Shanks claimed the finishing touch as the ball flew into the corner of the net.
Shanks went close to doubling the lead five minutes later, heading a cross from Tom Potter inches wide of the far post.
Robert Taylor was proving the main threat for Shields with his pace down the right, but it was from a free-kick that he nearly levelled the score.
His first attempt from 25 yards out on the left was blocked but when the ball rebounded into his path, he drove a powerful low shot towards the bottom corner of the Bay net only for Tom Flynn to dive full length and keep the ball out.
Five minutes later Gary Ormston, one of three former Bay players in the Robins line-up, sent a looping header just over the bar.
Back came Whitley and Kempster tried his luck with a 25-yard shot that flew just over the bar.
Play was held up six minutes before the interval when Nicky Allen had to be carried off after suffering a nasty ankle injury, and he was replaced by Aiden Haley.
Whitley comfortably held onto their lead for the remainder of the half with Shields looking below their best.
In an effort to turn the game around, the visitors made two changes at the interval and the move quickly paid dividends.
Whitley had the first chance after the resumption when Chris McDonald played a dangerous ball across the Shields 18-yard box. Robertson failed to make contact and when the ball reached Shanks in front of goal he was caught by surprise and his hurried shot failed to find the target.
Two minutes later a foul just outside the Bay penalty area led to the equaliser.
Lee Mason took the free-kick and substitute Ryan Carr headed home just inside the near post.
Whitley might have regained the lead in the 58th minute but were denied by a superb save from their former keeper Hayes, who dived low to push a goalbound effort from Robertson one-handed round the post.
The young striker, who had been played in by captain Jake Fowler, was working hard to create chances but was being thwarted by some resilient defending.
Further Bay pressure failed to produce the end product and they were punished in the 67th minute when Shanks was dispossessed and a quick break saw Whitley concede another free-kick.
In identical fashion to their equaliser, North Shields took the lead with Carr once again heading home as Bay failed to defend Mason’s set-piece ball.
The game had been turned around and the visitors were playing with more confidence than at any stage of the game, but for all their neat play they were still not able to seriously test Flynn in the Bay goal.
Bay’s Ross Wilkinson, who was carrying a calf injury and was not risked in the starting line-up, was brought off the bench for the final 15 minutes and he nearly made an instant impact, heading narrowly over the bar from Potter’s cross.
North Shields brought on striker Gareth Bainbridge but he failed to pose a threat as Whitley stepped up the pressure in the last ten minutes.
Pushing ever more forward, play was largely confined to the Shields half with balls into the box being well defended by a mean defence that had conceded only three goals in their previous six games.
With time ebbing away, McDonald brought another excellent save from Hayes, but then in the 89th minute, the young defender crossed the ball from near the right touchline and when Haley nodded it back across goal, Kempster reacted quickly and flicked the ball home from six yards to the delight of the home crowd.
It had been a well contested derby game between two good sides and played in an excellent spirit.
Just two weeks after the sides played out an exciting 3-3 draw at Hillheads, Whitley Bay travel across the Tyne to play the return fixture against South Shields on Saturday.
Then on Tuesday they are at home to Sunderland RCA.