Watling goal enough to see Whitley Bay past Congleton in FA Vase

Whitley Bay's Peter Watling celebrates scoring the only goal of the game at Congleton.
Whitley Bay's Peter Watling celebrates scoring the only goal of the game at Congleton.

A first half goal from Peter Watling was enough to secure Whitley Bay a place in the third round of the FA Vase against Dunston UTS after a hard fought cup tie in Cheshire.

A large contingent of Bay fans who had made the long journey over the Pennines arrived in Congleton to find the Booth Street ground bathed in sunshine with the pitch perfectly playable despite heavy overnight rain.

With Paul Robinson suspended, Whitley suffered another blow before kick-off when Alex Kempster suffered an injury in the pre-match warm-up, forcing Leon Ryan to change his starting line-up.

The first chance came on six minutes when Congleton’s Ryan Allcock tried his luck with a shot from 20 yards but the ball drifted wide.

Whitley responded when Craig McFarlane cut in from the left but fired over the bar.

Back at the other end, Scott Barlow wasted a good chance when he blazed the ball high and out of the ground.

Whitley have been plagued by injuries all season and just 15 minutes in Michael Laws became the latest victim when he limped off with a hamstring problem.

However, out of adversity comes opportunity and substitute Jonny Godsmark staked a claim for a regular place in the side, producing by far his best performance in Bay colours.

With 17 minutes played, Callum Anderson, spotting Congleton’s Craig Ellison off his line, tried an audacious long range shot, but the keeper back pedalled and collected the ball safely.

Another attempt by Allcock failed to trouble Dan Gladstone in the Bay goal while in Whitley’s next attack, Paul Chow briefly threatened but could not bring the high bouncing ball under control and the chance was gone.

The crucial goal came on the half hour when the impressive Anderson threaded the ball through the Congleton defence and Godsmark, near the byline, crossed into the six-yard box where Watling took a touch before slotting the ball beyond Ellison.

It was a well worked goal but given Whitley’s recent defensive record few Bay fans would have felt it was enough to win the tie.

The Cheshire side responded and when Whitley conceded a free kick about 20 yards from goal, Hudson’s ball into the goalmouth was headed onto the inside of the post by Allcock with Gladstone relieved to collect the rebound.

Shortly afterwards, it was Whitley’s turn to be denied by the frame of the goal when Chow, with only the keeper to beat, looked set to double the lead but was denied when Ellison got just enough on the ball to deflect it onto the outside of the post and behind for a corner.

Congleton were posing the greater threat at this stage and when Sephton fired in a shot, it took a last ditch clearance by Marc Ellison to keep the ball out and Gladstone was grateful to gather the ball.

Four minutes into the second half Whitley went close to extending their lead when Godsmark outpaced the Bears’ defence and was closing in on goal only to be brought down inches outside the penalty area, an offence that brought a caution for Louis James, who must have been relieved to escape a more serious punishment.

Five minutes later Godsmark was denied what would have been a stunning goal when the ball was cleared from a corner but only as far as the edge of the Congleton box and his perfectly struck volley was arrowing into the top corner until Ellison made a great diving save to push it wide.

From this point on the game produced few clear cut chances, with Whitley giving a more disciplined performance and the defence looking much more assured that in recent games.

Chris Reid and Leon Ryan dealt comfortably with high balls into the box while in midfield, Anderson and Ellison were instrumental as Congleton were denied time on the ball.

Godsmark, meanwhile, remained a threat with his speed on the counter attack down the wing.

With 13 minutes remaining, a foul by Reid on Barlow gave Congleton a free kick barely 20 yards out, and Whitley had a narrow escape as Hudson’s shot crashed off the bar.

Perhaps inevitably, the last ten minutes saw Whitley pushed back in defence as the North West Counties side threw men forward in search of an equaliser, but to a man Whitley defended resolutely and the home attacks became increasingly desperate with very few chances on target.

After almost five minutes of added time, the final whistle signalled celebrations from the Bay players and their fans who had witnessed a battling if not classic performance.

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, McFarlane, Anderson, Ryan, Reid, Bird, Laws (Godsmark 18), Watling, Ellison, Chow. Subs not used: McDonald, Redford, Harris, Foster.