Kempster double for Whitley Bay in win at West Auckland
Two goals from Alex Kempster saw Whitley Bay to a comfortable victory over an in-form West Auckland side who had lost only once in their previous eight games.
South west Durham had escaped the heavy rain that was affecting most of the region and the contest got under way in bright sunshine.
Adam Shanks returned to the Bay side following suspension but Callum Anderson missed out through injury, while in midfield Aiden Haley replaced former skipper Jake Fowler who moved to Washington during the week.
Interim manager Marc Nash handed the captain’s armband to Chris McDonald.
Playing up the slope, Whitley started well and forced two corners inside the opening 90 seconds.
Continuing to press forward, they went close in the ninth minute when Andy Robertson got on the end of Kempster’s cross and sent a glancing header just beyond the far post.
Three minutes later, Kyle Fryatt played the ball in from the left and Shanks drove a first time effort narrowly wide.
The pressure paid off moments later when Josh Nearney floated a free kick into the box and 12 yards out Kempster sent a header over former team-mate Michael Laws and into the net beyond the reach of keeper Gareth Shaw.
It was all Whitley at this stage and less than a minute later Robertson cut in from the by-line and got in a shot that Shaw held low down.
The action continued unabated and with 19 minutes played, West Auckland were reduced to ten men when defender Darren Richardson was sent off for a dangerous late challenge on Nearney.
Fryatt then appeared to be setting up another scoring opportunity after cutting in from the left but a misplaced pass ended the threat.
With the home side making a double substitution and changing their formation, Whitley struggled to press home their one man advantage, and on the difficult uneven surface, passes regularly went astray and neither side could make a significant impact.
West began the second half brightly and in the 54th minute, player/coach Mark Hudson brought a fine save from Tom Flynn with a 20-yard shot that the Bay keeper pushed wide.
Nearney, who had not fully recovered from the challenge that resulted in the sending off, was substituted ten minutes after the interval and received a warm reception from the Bay fans in what was the final game of his loan spell from League Two side Hartlepool United.
A lapse in concentration at the back almost gifted the home side a 65th minute equaliser, but Flynn came to the rescue with an excellent one handed save to deny Burnicle.
In a quick response, Bay substitute Tom Potter raced away and it took a timely last ditch challenge by Carl Jones to avert the danger.
Shanks then headed over from Patton’s left wing corner as Whitley searched for a second goal.
Burnicle again went close for West, his shot flying across goal and just beyond the far post.
Another error in defence kept Flynn on his toes as he made another important save.
Sixty seconds later, Whitley doubled their lead with an outstanding piece of individual skill from Kempster, who burst clear on the right and when it appeared that the ball was about to go out of play, he cleverly cut it back from the by-line past a defender, advanced towards goal and from a tight angle crashed a tremendous shot over Shaw into the roof of the net.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side, who up to this stage had been battling hard with ten men, and Whitley comfortably played out the final 17 minutes.
Shanks went close to adding a third five minutes from time but his shot was deflected behind by defender Hassan.
The win keeps Whitley in eighth place with half their league fixtures played.
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Nearney (Potter 55), McDonald, Allen, Wilkinson, Haley, Kempster, C Patton, Robertson (K Patton 75), Shanks, Fryatt (Keltie 70).