Following their excellent derby win over North Shields, Whitley Bay’s fortunes took a severe dip on Saturday when they suffered a shock defeat at basement side Norton & Stockton Ancients.
After a dismal first half performance, Whitley Bay staged an excellent comeback and looked set claim victory only to let the points slip with some poor defending compounded by a sending off.
Any thoughts that this would be an easy game were quickly dispelled as just five minutes in Norton striker Nick Martin had the ball in the Bay net only to see his effort ruled out by an offside flag.
Moments later Whitley went close when Callum Patton, signed from Morpeth on transfer deadline day, got a header on target, but despite the effort lacking power, it was fumbled by young keeper Carl Robinson and the ball rolled just inches away from the goal line before being gathered.
The keeper’s handling looked suspect, but he was not seriously tested as Whitley failed to get any meaningful shots on target during the opening half of the game.
On the quarter hour, Williamson broke through the Bay defence but Tom Flynn pushed his shot wide.
Norton continued to look much the livelier side and went ahead three minutes later when Martin headed home from a right wing cross.
Six minutes it got worse for the visitors as the diminutive home striker doubled his side’s lead with a close range finish following slipshod Bay defending.
Whitley rarely threatened during the first half, but on one occasion when they did push forward, they were denied what seemed a clear penalty when Adam Shanks was brought down inside the box, but appeals were waved away by the referee.
The second half saw an immediate improvement from the visitors, with more purpose and attacking intent right from the restart.
Less than two minutes had been played when Patton broke away down the left wing and cut in before delivering an excellent 20-yard shot across Robinson and into the far corner of the net.
With the deficit halved and spirits lifted, Whitley came straight back on the attack and from Patton’s cross Ash Davis got in a shot that Robinson spilled, but with no one on hand to take advantage, the chance went begging.
In a quick break upfield, Williamson raced through but fired wide. Five minutes later, the Norton winger created another opportunity before shooting high over the bar.
Whitley drew level on 56 minutes when Chris McDonald’s ball into the box was not claimed by the keeper and after a goalmouth scramble, Richard Flynn got the final touch which took the ball over the line.
The momentum was now with Whitley and four minutes later they took the lead when McDonald rifled a fierce shot past Robinson from 18 yards.
The game had been turned on its head in the space of 13 minutes and it seemed that Whitley would now take control, but in a cruel twist of fortune, Norton levelled within 90 seconds.
Martin was a persistent threat to Bay but there seemed little danger when he cut in from the left, however, his shot took a huge deflection off the boot of Craig McFarlane, wrong-footing Flynn as it flew into the far corner of the net.
With 15 minutes left it looked as if Whitley had regained the lead when Flynn headed home from a McDonald corner, but the referee cut the Bay celebrations short, ruling the goal out for an apparent infringement.
Both sides were now searching for the winner and Caley went close for the hosts but the ball was scooped over the bar.
Referee Chris Ellis was again at the centre of attention two minutes later when he awarded Norton a penalty after he deemed that Flynn had pushed an opponent.
Substitute Thibault Charney sent Flynn the wrong way with a perfectly placed spot kick, and seconds later things went from bad to worse for Whitley when Flynn was sent off for dissent.
Norton comfortably held on for a precious three points which may not be enough to save them from relegation, but it did little for Whitley’s hopes of pulling clear of the danger zone, their only comfort being the news that both Bedlington and Durham had also lost, leaving them four points clear of the bottom three.
Whitley Bay: T Flynn, McFarlane, McDonald, Anderson, R Flynn, Prosser (Berry 72), Patton, Fowler, Shanks, Davis, Kempster. Subs not used: Day, Gladstone.