Two second half goals enough for Bay

Whitley Bay made it three wins in a row and continued their surge up the table with a hard fought midweek victory over newly promoted Morpeth Town.

The visitors arrived at Hillheads on a six-match unbeaten run and were full of confidence after putting seven goals past Team Northumbria at the weekend.

But it was Whitley who deservedly came out on top in what was a keenly contested encounter.

There was just one change from the Bay side that defeated Bishop Auckland with Brad Brooking replacing Chris Fawcett, who had not fully recovered from a knee injury that forced his substitution at half-time on the Saturday.

A familiar name among the Morpeth substitutes was defender Marc Walmsley, one of Whitley’s FA Vase winning heroes back in 2002.

The game got under way at a rapid pace with both sides intent on attacking as they attempted to maintain their recent free scoring form.

With eight minutes played, Craig McFarlane showed a clean pair of heels as he raced through from defence but his cross into the box was deflected behind for a corner. James Novak played the resulting flag kick deep to Brad Brooking whose first time shot flew just over the bar.

Whitley kept up the pressure and Paul Chow’s cross from the byline to Jarrett Rivers ended with another block which earned a second corner. This time Leon Ryan rose above the Morpeth defence to meet Novak’s corner and his header clipped the outside of the post.

Morpeth were far from out of it and just past the quarter hour they exerted a period of pressure on the Bay defence but without really troubling Tom Kindley.

When one of their attacks foundered, play quickly broke to the other end with Rivers racing in on goal but inside the 18-yard box he unselfishly squared the ball to Chow when a better option might have been to try a shot on goal.

Approaching the half hour, Whitley started to gain the upper hand, with keeper Rookes saving from Rivers before Ash Davis turned in the box after receiving a cross from McFarlane and fired just wide of the target.

With 31 minutes played, Whitley almost took the lead with the best move of the half.

When Paul Antony crossed the ball, Chow swivelled and volleyed a great shot from 15 yards that Rookes did well to push clear.

“It would have been a Chow rare one from that distance,” he said after the game. “I probably hit the ball too well and it went straight down the keeper’s throat.”

After another series of Whitley corners, a free kick conceded just outside the Bay penalty area resulted in Kindley making an excellent diving save to deny the visitors, so at half-time there was still no score.

After the resumption Kindley saved well from Michael Chilton, but ten minutes into the second half Whitley made the crucial breakthrough.

The goal came after Davis had played Rivers through and his shot was deflected behind. Antony played the resulting corner kick to the near post where Chris Reid got in front of Rookes to bundle the ball over the line.

Despite having a fair amount of possession, Morpeth were unable to find a way through a well marshalled Bay defence and they created few scoring opportunities.

Perhaps the closest they came was after 69 minutes when substitute Shaun Henderson put Jordan Fry through on the right and his shot took a slight deflection, wrong footing Kindley and the ball flew only inches beyond the far post.

Any hopes the visitors may have had of rescuing a point ended with Whitley’s second goal 13 minutes from time.

Rookes appeared to misjudge the flight of a cross into the goalmouth from Novak and could only get his fingertips to the ball which went over his head and defender Michael Hall, attempting to clear the ball under pressure from Chow, ended up heading it into his own net and injuring himself in the process.

Hall was soon able to continue but frustration at conceding the goal together with some debatable decisions by the officials led to a brief flare up near the touchline between Hall and Davis, with the Morpeth bench incensed when referee Paul Keogh opted to caution both players.

Whitley immediately substituted Davis with Andy Robertson taking his place for the remaining seven minutes.

Chris Fawcett, who had replaced Brooking for the final quarter of the game, played a significant part in the closing stages, using his pace to unsettle the tiring Morpeth defence and creating at least three opportunities for Whitley to extend their lead.

Robertson was also denied at point blank range by Rookes as Whitley finished the game strongly.

The win moved Bay three places further up the table and apart from the victory, what was particularly pleasing was keeping another clean sheet, with just one goal conceded in three games.

Reflecting on the game, captain Chow acknowledged that it had not been easy for Whitley.

He said: “Not our best performance of the season of the season but a hard fought win with two scrappy goals.”

Looking back on the opening weeks of the season, he added: “We knew all along that we just needed that first win to get back on track. That came at Billingham Town and then there was a very good performance on Saturday.

“We all know what we are doing; everything is going in the right direction again.”

On the new arrivals at the club, he said: “Leon (Ryan) has come in and is doing a fantastic job. Jarrett Rivers is a good young player with a great attitude. He can play anywhere, full back, centre midfield, both wings, he’s a great acquisition.

“Tom (Kindley) has always been a good goalkeeper; he’s got the size and is quite vocal. He’s doing very well.

“After losing four very big characters it’s taken a while to gel, but we’ve got a very good team now.”

Whitley Bay: Kindley, McFarlane, Novak, Reid, Ryan, Anderson, Brooking (Fawcett 71 mins), Antony (Blake 90), Davis (Robertson 83), Chow, Rivers. Substitutes not used: C Smith, Ball.