A first half penalty proved decisive as Washington claimed a narrow victory over Whitley Bay in a poor game on a very heavy Nissan Sports Complex pitch.
Torrential rain around midday had put the game in doubt and referee Michael Andrews only gave the green light following a second inspection just 30 minutes before kick-off, with the weather conditions showing some improvement.
Phil Lumsden returned to the Bay side after a five-week absence through injury, while Adam Shanks dropped to the bench.
Alex Kempster made his 100th appearance for the club, a creditable achievement for a player just 20 years of age, but it was not a game he will wish to remember after receiving the first red card of his career following a controversial incident late in the game.
Although the rain had relented by kick-off, Whitley still had to contend with a strong wind in their faces during the first half and it soon became clear that both sets of players were struggling to control the ball in the difficult conditions.
With little to choose between the sides a draw would probably have been a fair result.
However, as in recent games, Whitley failed to take a grip of midfield and lacked a cutting edge in attack, failing to capitalise on what chances they created.
The first chance of note came in the 21st minute when Kempster’s 20-yard shot was pushed round the post by Washington keeper Josh Carmichael, who had a short spell at Hillheads three years ago.
A minute later Kris Hughes crossed from the left and Michael Laws sent a looping header just over the bar.
An opportunist wind-assisted effort from the home side almost caught Andy Jennison off guard as the ball was struck goalwards from near the halfway line, but the Bay keeper back-pedalled and safely gathered.
On the half hour came the incident that decided the game. Stuart Bramley was penalised for a mis-timed tackle near the right edge of the Bay area and conceded a penalty. Washington captain Mark Davison sent Jennison the wrong way with the spot kick to put the Mechanics ahead.
Nine minutes into the second half, Chris McDonald’s shot from the left edge of the Washington penalty area curled narrowly past the far post.
Following a foul on Kempster just outside the 18-yard box, Carmichael pushed the free kick away but as the ball ran loose across the goalmouth there was no Bay player on hand to take advantage.
Mark Bertram and Michael Bell both got shots in on goal but without troubling Carmichael.
The home side seemed content to hold onto their lead and when they did break out they could not find a way through the Bay defence with Jennison rarely called upon.
Frustratingly from a Whitley viewpoint, the wind which was now in their favour had eased considerably and was no longer a significant factor.
The game was becoming increasingly physical with some excessive challenges going unpunished, notably one from which Steve Gibson was fortunate to escape uninjured.
The officials were beginning to lose control and this led to a flash point in the 75th minute when Kempster, who had been closely patrolled all game, was held back by Aaron Croft.
With Whitley on the attack down the left wing, the Washington defender grabbed both of Kempster’s legs, preventing him from moving. In frustration and in an attempt to free himself, Kempster pushed Croft, leading to an off the ball flare-up.
The referee called both of his assistants across for a prolonged discussion and after a lengthy delay, with players continuing to argue, Kempster was eventually sent off while Croft, whose actions had caused the incident, was only shown a yellow card.
When play finally resumed, Whitley nearly snatched an equaliser when substitute Jake Richardson connected with a cross from McDonald and his shot skimmed the top of the Washington bar.
Three minutes from time, Richardson again went close, but Carmichael came to his side’s rescue, pushing the ball away from danger.
A late free kick from Shanks was comfortably gathered by the keeper before the referee’s whistle signalled the end of a thoroughly forgettable game.
Whitley Bay: Jennison, Gibson, McDonald, Lumsden, Laws, Bramley, Hughes (Shanks 60), Anderson, (Richardson 69), Bell, Bertram, Kempster. Subs not used: Norris, Williamson, Day.