WHITLEY Bay FC kicked off their pre season programme with an attractive home game against Scottish side Airdrie United.
With several first team regulars unavailable, Ian Chandler gave a number of new signings and reserve players the opportunity to stake their claim for a first team place, against a visiting team who look likely to be playing in the Scottish First Division in the coming season following the well documented problems of Glasgow Rangers..
Despite the recent very wet weather, the pitch was in excellent condition and on what was a rare fine and sunny day in this dismal summer, there was a good crowd of almost 400 spectators, including a sizeable contingent of Airdrie fans.
The first half saw very little goalmouth action, with the game being played largely in midfield.
There were a couple of anxious moments for Whitley when defensive errors almost led to a goal, in one instance debutant keeper Liam Mooney doing well to clear a misplaced back pass off the line.
Just when it looked as if the half would end goal less, Airdrie took the lead when Kieran Stallard fired a fine 20 yard shot low into the bottom corner of the net beyond the reach of Mooney.
After the interval, play opened up with both sides showing more attacking intent and testing the defences. Almost immediately, Lee Kerr got a shot on target but Kenny Arthur made a comfortable save.
Ten minutes into the half, a well taken free kick by Ryan Donnelly curled just over the Whitley bar and ten minutes later, another Airdrie effort, this time from goalscorer Stallard, was narrowly off target.
Both sides were making a number of substitutions to give as many players as possible some match practice and this seemed to benefit Whitley, with Michael McMullen providing pace down the wings.
However, it was another pacy winger, Chris Fawcett, who almost provided the equaliser for Whitley from a most unlikely source. Callum Anderson, who has never scored for Whitley, raced forward to fire a tremendous header just inches over the Airdrie bar.
Paul Robinson then saw a shot deflected wide for a corner as Whitley gained the upper hand.
Chris Reid, who had been outstanding in defence went past a defender on the left edge of the penalty area before cutting the ball low into the six yard box where substitute and reserve team player Jack Walker slotted the ball home for a well deserved equaliser.
The goal came with just nine minutes remaining but there was still time for Kerr to curl a good effort past the far post.
A draw against a higher status side is obviously pleasing although the results of pre-season friendlies are of less important than those of competitive games.
Perhaps the most satisfying outcomes were the performances of some of the new faces. Daryll Donnelly at centre back, Seb Anzevui in midfield and in the second half winger Denver Morris all gave cause for optimism, as did young midfielder James Fairley.
The next three weeks will provide plenty more opportunities for Ian Chandler and his management team to assess the squad, starting with Saturday’s game away to Seaham Red Star, followed by another away game, this time at Jarrow FC next Wednesday.
Team: Mooney, Anderson, Fawcett, Reid, Donnelly, Anzevui, Morris, Fairley, Kerr, Downey, Robinson.
Second half substitutes: McMullen, Walker, C Smith, Rowe