AN excellent team performance by Whitley Bay resulted in a convincing victory over Billingham Synthonia on a sunny afternoon at Hillheads on Saturday.
Paul Robinson was back in the starting line up for the first time since suffering an injury in the defeat against the Synners on Teesside five weeks ago and he had a major impact on the game.
Whitley were clearly determined to put things right after some disappointing recent performances, in particular in the midweek defeat at South Shields, and they could hardly have responded in more emphatic fashion.
Synthonia came into the game with one of the best away records in the league but once Whitley took an early lead, there was little doubt as to the outcome.
The visitors began brightly and a shot from distance from Nathan Jameson in the third minute flew just over the bar but Whitley quickly asserted themselves with Robinson controlling the midfield.
The first goal came after ten minutes when experienced Billingham central defender David Abel slipped under pressure from Robbie Dale just outside the penalty area. This gave Dale a clear run on goal and he comfortably beat keeper Josh Moody from 15 yards.
Whitley kept up the pressure and two minutes later, McWilliams was grateful to concede a corner after Dale played a low ball into the goalmouth.
When the corner was cleared, Craig McFarlane slipped while attempting a clearance in midfield allowing the visitors to break towards the Whitley goal but Callum Anderson made a timely clearance.
After David Pounder’s ball flew across the face of goal only inches ahead of the onrushing Paul Chow, Whitley doubled their lead when Robinson and Kerr exchanged passes just inside the Billingham penalty area and Robinson fired the ball home from ten yards.
With accurate passing and by keeping the ball on the ground, Whitley were causing panic in the Synners defence and three minutes later, Abel stumbled and poked his attempted clearance just wide of his own goal as McFarlane’s cross caused more problems for the visitors.
In their best move of the half, the Teessiders threatened to pull a goal back when they attacked down the right but Chris Reid was well placed to block a close range shot from Ross Gardner after 23 minutes.
The game was as good as won ten minutes later when the hapless Abel tripped Robinson a few yards inside the penalty area. Moody did well to block Chow’s spot kick, but could not prevent him netting the rebound to put Whitley three goals ahead.
Whitley were now comfortably in control of the game and just before the interval they created two more opportunities, firstly when Kerr volleyed over the bar then Robinson saw his chip shot held on the line by Moody.
The pattern of the game did not change after half time and with 49 minutes on the clock, David Coulson’s back post header from Pounder’s free kick was only inches wide of goal. Whitley kept pushing forward and after Robinson’s shot was blocked, the ball fell to Pounder who was denied by Moody’s save.
A tremendous surging run by Gareth Williams down the left wing brought applause from the crowd but after all his good work he poked his cross out of play.
Not surprisingly in his comeback game, Robinson was substituted after an hour and he deservedly left the field to a tremendous ovation. In recent games, substitutions have disrupted Whitley’s performance but not today. Whitley stayed focused and Bell, on as Robinson’s replacement, went close from a pass by Kerr.
A rare break upfield saw Danny Earl play the ball across the face of the Whitley goal but that was just about the only time Kyle Hayes was involved in the second half action as Whitley dominated proceedings.
After 74 minutes, the goal of the game and one of the best of the season came from a flowing move involving four players and it summed up Whitley’s performance on the day. Craig McFarlane’s cross from the left was headed down by Phill Bell and one touch balls between Pounder and Kerr ended with Pounder volleying a superb shot across Moody and into the far corner of the net.
Pounder was finding plenty of space on the right and a few minutes later his cross to the back of the 18 yard box reached McFarlane whose goal bound shot unluckily hit Chow and rebounded away from goal.
In the closing stages, youngsters Michael McMullen and Kyle Downey came off the bench in place of Chow and Pounder, McMullen making his first team debut.
After the disappointment of recent defeats, the happy and vociferous crowd of well over 400 fans gave Whitley a rousing ovation at the final whistle.
WHITLEY BAY: Hayes, Anderson, McFarlane, Reid, Coulson, Williams, Kerr, Pounder(Downey 83mins), Chow(McMullen 80mins), Dale, Robinson(Bell 61mins)
Substitutes not used: Smith, Kindley
Referee: G Liddle (Darlington) Caution: Downey