League leaders take the points at Hillheads

Whitley Bay FC chairman Paul McIlduff presents Ian Chandler with an 'engraved salver to mark his ten years as manager.
Whitley Bay FC chairman Paul McIlduff presents Ian Chandler with an 'engraved salver to mark his ten years as manager.

League leaders Shildon left Whitley bay with the points after an entertaining game played in difficult conditions at Hillheads.

It was a game of contrasting halves, with the Railwaymen controlling the first period during which they established a two-goal lead, but after the interval Whitley fought back strongly and almost claimed a share of the spoils.

Midfielder Stephen Buzzeo returned to the starting 11 following injury and there was a recall for Craig Smith in defence.

Following recent rain, the pitch was very heavy but it was passed fit following a morning inspection.

Before the game the football club and supporters’ club both made presentations to Ian Chandler to mark his ten years as Bay manager.

Rain returned shortly before kick-off and when the game got under way, Shildon were quicker to come to terms with the muddy pitch and blustery wind.

Winger Sam Garvie got the first attempt on goal after just two minutes, but his shot failed to trouble young keeper Richard Harley.

Nearly 20 minutes had passed before the Shildon goal was put under any pressure and when Chris Reid crossed into the box and defender Darren Craddock headed the ball behind for a corner.

A few minutes later Craddock was cautioned for a cynical trip on Jarrett Rivers just as the young Bay midfielder was about to break clear of the Shildon defence.

A tenacious midfield contest was being played out between Callum Anderson and former Bay favourite LeePaul Scroggins.

Ben Wood went close for the visitors on the half hour when he fired straight at Harley and the keeper could not hold the ball, but it was quickly cleared to safety.

A minute later, Harley, deputising once more for Tom Kindley, made a tremendous save, acrobatically pushing a goalbound shot onto the bar and away from goal.

The pressure was mounting and it came as little surprise when Shildon took the lead shortly afterwards.

The goal came when Garvie’s crossfield ball found Wood in space on the left and he closed in on goal before firing a low shot across Harley into the far corner of the net.

With Paul Chow playing a lone striker role for Whitley, he was an isolated figure and only when Rivers ran at the Shildon defence did Whitley cause the visitors any problems.

Right on half-time a second goal put the league leaders in the driving seat and it came when Whitley failed to clear their lines following a corner and Billy Greulich-Smith drilled a low shot through the Bay defence and past Harley from ten yards.

Whatever Chandler said in the dressing room at half-time certainly had the desired effect as the home side stormed out of the blocks on the restart, immediately forcing a corner and when it was played straight out to Rivers on the right edge of the penalty area and he rifled the ball into the net through a crowded goalmouth, giving keeper Lewis Graham no chance.

It was the perfect start for Whitley, lifting the spirits of players and fans alike, and brought them right back into the game.

Four minutes later, Craig McFarlane raced away down the right flank, making light of the conditions, and fired a low ball across the goalmouth where only the slightest of touches would have sent it into the net.

Whitley were enjoying much more possession and for a while Shildon seemed content to soak up the pressure.

Alex Kempster and Rivers were seeing more of the ball in midfield and just past the hour the two teenagers combined to create a chance for Whitley when Rivers whipped the ball in from the right and it was headed just over the bar by Kempster.

The visitors came back into the contest more as the half progressed and there were chances at both ends as Whitley pressed for the equaliser while on the break Shildon attempted to make the game safe with a third goal.

Harley made an impressive save to keep the Railwaymen out midway through the half and then from his clearance, Whitley went straight down the other end as McFarlane set off on another dangerous run down the wing.

Whitley brought on another of their promising teenagers, Lewis Burns, for the final 20 minutes as they pushed more men forward.

Meanwhile, when required they were defending admirably, with timely tackles restricting the free scoring visitors to a minimum of chances on goal and when they did go close, Harley was on top form, on one occasion making a vital save to keep out a shot when an opponent was clear on goal.

The longer the game went on, the more Whitley pushed forward, but despite their best efforts, it was not to be and Shildon hung on to claim victory and move two points clear at the top of the table.

Whitley Bay: Harley, McFarlane, Kempster, Reid, Ryan (McMullen 87 mins), Anderson, Smith, Buzzeo (Burns 72), Ameobi, Chow, Rivers.