Whitley Bay lost by the odd goal in seven in an entertaining and hard fought game played in difficult windy conditions at Consett’s Belle View Stadium on Saturday.
Witnessed by a bumper crowd of 429 fans, the game had just about everything – seven goals, a penalty that was saved and a controversial sending off shortly before the final whistle.
In an attacking line-up, Ian Chandler named debutant Ryan Noble in a three-man strikeforce which included another of his recent signings, Paul Kane, alongside top scorer Adam Shanks.
Defender Craig McFarlane, still on the road back to fitness after breaking his ankle last April, made his 300th appearance – an outstanding achievement for the popular 28-year-old.
Consett made the perfect start by taking the lead in the sixth minute when Dan Hawkins struck an excellent 25-yard shot past Andy Jennison.
Whitley responded quickly and just seven minutes later they were back on level terms when Shanks headed home Jake Fowler’s in-swinging left wing corner.
Despite having the wind at their backs, Whitley were not putting the home defence under any real pressure and they were stunned when Consett scored twice in the space of four minutes shortly after the half hour.
The hosts regained the lead when Luke Sullivan muscled his way past McFarlane before crossing into the box where Ryan Cummings slotted home from ten yards.
The third goal came from a move on the opposite side of the pitch when Mordue went past Chris McDonald and crossed for Sullivan to slide past Jennison to give his side a two-goal cushion.
Undeterred, Whitley battled back and eight minutes before the break they capitalised on a defensive error when keeper Jake Johnson could only palm Alex Kempster’s corner kick into the path of Michael Laws, whose back post header made it 3-2.
The goal gave Whitley a real boost and they finished the half strongly.
A shot from Kane was fumbled by Johnson before the ball was cleared, then one minute later Fowler drilled the ball inches over the bar.
Kempster then raced clear down the right wing before crossing to the back post where Noble, stretching to reach the ball, knocked it into the side-netting with Johnson beaten.
It looked a difficult task for Whitley in the second half with the strengthening wind now in their faces, but they stunned the Steelmen with an equaliser just 65 seconds after the restart.
Kane latched onto the ball just inside the centre circle and burst clear before coolly firing past Johnson from 12 yards.
With everything to play for, Fowler tested Johnson with a shot that the keeper held safely, then after 57 minutes Jennison denied Mordue with a stunning save.
Callum Anderson hobbled off just past the hour with Josh Day replacing him while Chris Youldon then took over from Noble.
The wind was playing an increasingly significant part in the game and in the 66th minute a long ball swirled over the Bay defence beyond Laws and Consett striker Michael Sweet just managed to poke it beyond the reach of the advancing Jennison and into the net to put the home side back in front.
Three minutes later Jennison produced another fine one-handed save to push a shot from Hawkins past the post.
Whitley then conceded a penalty when Sullivan was adjudged to have been tripped inside the box, but Jennison again came to the rescue, diving to save Sweet’s spot kick.
Another wind assisted ball into the Bay penalty area saw Sweet’s deflected attempt come back off the post before Whitley staged a late effort to snatch an equaliser.
But it was to no avail and the game ended in a degree of controversy when McDonald was sent off in stoppage time following an incident near the touchline when the Whitley defender reacted to a challenge and was dismissed after the referee consulted his assistant.
While Whitley scored three goals they were let down by some defensive mistakes, and with other sides around them unexpectedly picking up points, they dropped to third from bottom of the table.
They have six games in hand on many of the sides in the bottom half of the table, but they will need to start picking up points soon if they are to avoid becoming involved in a relegation battle.
Whitley Bay: Jennison, McFarlane (Norris 77), McDonald, Anderson (Day 61), Flynn, Kane, Fowler, Shanks, Noble (Youldon 62), Kempster. Subs not used: Gladstone, R Williamson.