League champions Shildon prove too strong for Whitley Bay
There was no disputing that league champions Shildon deserved to take the points from Saturday's game, but they had to come from behind.
The home side took an early lead but two first half penalties then put the visitors in the driving seat before a deflected shot sealed victory for the Railwaymen.
Whitley were missing three influential players, with Ross Wilkinson and Andy Robertson both injured while Callum Anderson was a late withdrawal from the squad.
On the plus side, Callum Patton and Adam Shanks were both back in the starting line-up after missing the previous week’s game at Newcastle Benfield.
Whitley made the perfect start, going ahead inside the third minute.
Capitalising on a lack of concentration in the Shildon defence, Alex Kempster played the ball across the edge of the 18-yard box to Chris Moore who was left completely unmarked and clinically slotted the ball past keeper Nick Liversedge.
The visitors took a while to settle but were gifted a 14th minute equaliser when rather than clearing the ball from danger, Ryan Keltie opted to make a back pass to Tom Flynn. There was not quite enough pace on the ball and Michael Rae got to it just ahead of the keeper who brought the Shildon man down near the by-line, conceding a penalty. Billy Greulich-Smith levelled from the spot, driving the ball down the middle of the goal.
Two minutes later Whitley had the chance to regain the lead following a quickly taken throw-in from Chris McDonald, and with the Shildon defence all at sea, Tom Potter closed in and lobbed the ball over Liversedge but only into the side-netting when he should have found the target.
The home side were breaking quickly from midfield and when Kempster raced down the left wing he was clumsily brought down by defender David Ferguson who was cautioned.
Shildon captain Daniel Moore brought a good save from Flynn around the half hour mark, but when he burst forward again in the 36th minute, he was tripped inside the box by Nicky Allen and referee Mark Ryan awarded the visitors a second penalty, which Greulich-Smith again converted, this time placing the ball in the left corner of the net, to put his side in front.
It was a lead they deserved and two minutes before the interval they might have gone further ahead but Purewal put a cross from Rae over the bar.
Early in the second half Whitley were forced into a substitution with the influential Kempster unable to continue after picking up an ankle injury shortly before the interval. He was replaced by former Alnwick striker Liam Brooks, who was making his home debut.
Flynn made an excellent save three minutes later, fisting clear a viciously swerving 25-yard shot from Lewis Wing.
The visitors were looking impressive across the pitch but Whitley were undeterred and on the hour Shanks leapt to meet a cross from Moore but good defending deflected the goalbound header past the far post.
Two minutes later Liversedge had to race off his line to reach the ball just ahead of the onrushing Brooks.
In the 64th minute, Whitley’s chances of getting back into the game took a severe blow when Wing’s cross from the left into the goalmouth took a huge deflection off Bay defender Callum Munro, wrong-footing Flynn and leaving him helpless as the ball flew into the net.
It was an unlucky goal to concede and left Whitley deflated while Shildon grew in confidence.
Five minutes later, Wing had a shot on target well saved by Flynn, who pushed the ball round the post.
Brooks worked hard and was putting pressure on the Shildon rearguard while Potter continued to threaten down the wing, but there was to be no way through a well organised and experienced defence and the visitors ran out worthy winners.
Among the positives for Whitley to take from the game was an impressive performance by midfielder David Hall on only his second start for the first team, and he was named h20 Bathrooms man of the match.
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Munro, McDonald, Hall, Keltie, Allen, Potter, Patton, Shanks (Cooper 86), Kempster (Brooks 48), Moore (Haley 64).
Whitley Bay travel to Ryhope on Saturday to take on mid-table Sunderland RCA before entertaining West Allotment Celtic at Hillheads on Boxing Day, with the game kicking-off a midday.