Keeper Hammond the hero as Whitley Bay Reserves end Blyth Town run

Whitley Bay's reserve team celebrate their penalty shoot-out victory over Blyth Town.
Whitley Bay's reserve team celebrate their penalty shoot-out victory over Blyth Town.

Whitley Bay’s Northern League game fell victim to the weather for the third successive weekend, allowing the club’s reserve side to take centre stage on Saturday.

And they certainly took advantage as they reached the final of the Northumberland FA Benevolent Bowl after a penalty shoot-out.

The semi-final saw Whitley face a difficult tie away to Northern Alliance champions Blyth Town, currently top of the table and with a 100 per cent record in all competitions, having won all 24 of their games to date.

Unsurprisingly, Blyth were hot favourites, but on a difficult playing surface at South Newsham, Whitley’s youngsters battled magnificently and held the upper hand for lengthy periods but could not break down a strong Blyth defence.

It was a game of few chances and with neither side able to break the deadlock, the tie went into extra time where Whitley had a glorious chance to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty, but Andy Robertson saw his spot kick saved.

Despite the best efforts of both sides, the game ended goal less, and in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, Whitley emerged 4-3 winners, with goalkeeper Michael Hammond saving two spot kicks as well as converting one himself.

The winning penalty, scored by Jack Byerley, sparked scenes of jubilation among the visiting side and their fans as they secured their cup final place while Blyth suffered their first defeat of the season.

In the final, which will be played in April at the Northumberland FA headquarters in Benton, Whitley will face Wallington, whose semi-final victory also came courtesy of a penalty shoot-out against Walker Central.

Meanwhile, Whitley’s senior team will be hoping to return to action on Saturday when they are due to face Billingham Synthonia at Hillheads.

Last weekend’s game at Celtic Nation was called off on Friday afternoon with the Carlisle club’s pitch frozen and partly covered in snow, so it will be four weeks since Paddy Atkinson’s side were in action.

During that time the new manager has brought in no fewer than eight players to strengthen a squad depleted by injuries, and with Michael Laws and Craig Smith both starting suspensions.

Synthonia have struggled uncharacteristically near the foot of the table this season, but recent weeks has seen their form improve dramatically and they are now five points clear of the relegation zone, so this will be a tricky game for a Bay side which is certain to include several new faces.

The league game is followed on Tuesday evening by the Northumberland Senior Cup semi-final against Blyth Spartans at Croft Park.

This local derby will undoubtedly be a special occasion, with Paddy Atkinson returning to a club where he was a former manager, and with several ex-Blyth players in the Bay squad.

Spartans have enjoyed tremendous cup success this season and will provide stern opposition, so a keenly contested game is assured with both sides battling to reach the final at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

Kick-off is at 7.30pm and a large following of Bay fans is expected to make the short journey up the coast.

The game away to Celtic Nation has been rearranged for Tuesday, March 10.