Whitley Bay 2-2 Team Northumbria
Jack Walker’s dramatic late equaliser ensured that Whitley finally ended their losing run which extended back to early February.
This was a game that they deserved to win, and they would have done so quite comfortably if they had been able to capitalise on the numerous chances that they created. The misfortune that has featured regularly in recent games struck once again with both of the visitors’ goals coming from deflections.
The pitch was inevitably soft after another week of wet weather, but a pleasantly sunny and mild afternoon attracted more than 300 spectators, the day’s biggest Northern League attendance.
Defender Noah Summers returned to Whitley’s starting eleven, as did striker Michael Bell. Team Northumbria came into the game following impressive victories over Consett and Stockton and they created the first opportunity of note in the sixth minute when Andrei Ardelean saw his shot pushed over the bar by Tom Flynn. Three minutes later, Whitley responded when Josh Nearney crossed into the goalmouth but Michael Bell’s close range effort was palmed away by keeper Charles Murphy. Whitley were getting on top and in the 11th minute Callum Anderson headed not far wide from Potter’s free kick. Five minutes later another cross from Potter was met by Peter Glen-Ravenhill whose header cleared the bar. Glen-Ravenhill then had another chance, his first time effort from Bell’s knock down producing a good save from Murphy.
The Students had been mostly on the back foot for the opening quarter of the game but in the 28th minute Gerard Richardson broke through from midfield but he could not get a shot on target. Whitley took the ball back upfield where Callum Johnston, starting in place of the injured Liam Brooks, saw his shot comfortably saved. Richardson then broke through for the visitors only to be denied by a timely tackle from Nearney.
When Team Northumbria won a corner ten minutes before the interval, it took a goal line clearance from David Hall to keep them out. Shortly afterwards, a flowing Whitley move starting with Nearney and Aiden Haley cut through the visitors’ midfield before Potter crossed into the box where Johnston’s header flew over the bar. A foul on Potter 25 yards from goal resulted in two shots being blocked in rapid succession. Nearney then recovered superbly from a challenge, winning back the ball near the right touch line before delivering an excellent cross behind the Team North defence. Johnston raced in needing only a delicate touch to slot the ball into the net but it flew agonisingly wide of the far post. In the final minute of the half, Callum Anderson needed lengthy treatment following a strong challenge in midfield and was replaced after the interval by Chris Salmon.
Barely 90 seconds after the restart, Whitley took the lead when Tom Potter latched onto a ball from midfield and from the right edge of the 18 yard box fired a low shot beyond Murphy and into the net off the far post. It was no more than they deserved but it seemed to spark the visitors into life and the game opened up with the Students showing much more purpose and attacking intent. Ten minutes into the half, Read threatened but as he closed in on goal, Hall intervened, winning the ball and playing it back to Flynn.
Just past the hour, Potter’s cross from near the by-line was pushed over the bar by Murphy as Whitley searched for a second goal. However, against the run of play, Team Northumbria got an equaliser in the 66th minute when Richardson’s shot took a deflection and flew into the net past Flynn.
Six minutes later Whitley had a glorious chance to regain the lead when Johnston crossed low from the right but Glen-Ravenhill, with the goal at his mercy, could not get the vital touch and the ball went out of play. A shot from Johnston then took a slight deflection and went over the bar for a corner. The flag kick caused problems in the Team North defence with the ball eventually being cleared off the line.
Play was not restricted to the one end though and with 79 minutes played, substitute Kieron Day brought an important save from Flynn. A Team North corner seven minutes from time produced a goalmouth scramble as Whitley tried to clear the ball but another substitute, Dan Taggart benefitted from a ricochet as his shot rebounded off two players before crossing the line to put the Students in front.
It looked as if another defeat was looming for Whitley but to their credit, they did not let their heads drop and instead battled back. Within two minutes, Chris Salmon saw his cross into the goalmouth pushed behind but the corner was cleared. With the game entering the 89th minute, Whitley won a free kick on the right and when Potter floated the ball into the goalmouth, Jack Walker raced in and clipped it over Murphy and into the net, to the delight of team mates and fans alike.
Scott Jasper, who had replaced Johnston for the final ten minutes, was not far off target as Whitley pushed for a winner but it was not to be and they had to settle for a point.