HAVING conceded two goals during a disappointing first half, Whitley Bay came back strongly after the interval to earn a 2-2 draw against Penrith on Saturday.
And with a little more luck the visitors might have gone on to win the Ebac Northern League division one game.
For their sixth game in 13 days, Ian Chandler once again reshuffled his side.
Craig McFarlane and LeePaul Scroggins dropped down to the bench while Callum Anderson returned and youngsters Lewis Burns and Kyle Downey were also in the starting line-up.
Whitley started brightly with an early cross from Chris Fawcett being put behind for a corner.
Two minutes later, Penrith keeper Jonny Jamieson saved Lee Kerr’s shot with Paul Chow waiting to pounce if the ball was spilled.
With the breeze in their favour, Penrith threatened with eight minutes on the clock when a long goal kick bounced on the dry surface and looped high over Craig Smith, and Kyle Hayes only just got to the ball ahead of Penrith striker Kevin Connelly.
The Cumbrians were settling into the game and after Hayes had done well to push out a shot from close range, the ball fell for Connelly who drove it in to give the home side a 13th minute lead.
The goal spurred on the Cumbrians and six minutes later Martyn Coleman went close with a shot that rippled the side-netting.
Six minutes before half-time, Whitley came close to snatching an equaliser when James Novak’s cross from the left beat the Penrith defence but Fawcett coming in at the back post could only make contact with his knee and ball ballooned over the bar, leaving him with a painful knock which needed attention before he could continue.
Bay suffered another blow four minutes later when what appeared to be a speculative shot from way out on the left by defender Kevin Holliday flew past three defenders and beyond Hayes, finding the net off the inside of the far post.
Two goals down at the interval, changes saw James Fairley and McFarlane come on for Downey and Burns.
Bay players emerged early from the dressing room and whatever had been said had the desired effect as there was much greater urgency straight from the first whistle.
They pulled a goal back within 90 seconds and it was one of the substitutes, McFarlane, who set up the goal with a perfect ball in from the right wing and Fawcett came in at the back post to plant a bullet header past the helpless Jamieson.
The momentum was now with Whitley and seven minutes later, Brad Brooking’s ball down the right wing reached Anderson, surging forward from midfield. His cross into the goalmouth reached Fairley, whose first shot was saved by Jamieson but the keeper could not hold the ball and Fairley was quick to react, firing home the rebound to level the score.
Three minutes later a cross from Craig Smith was only just too far in front of Paul Robinson as Whitley maintained the pressure.
Chow then set up Fairley who fired over the bar when he should have done better.
Midway through the half, Fairley was played through on goal and tried to take the ball round the keeper. To the surprise of players and the fans behind the goal, the referee awarded Whitley a penalty, although there appeared to have been minimal contact between the Bay player and the keeper.
However, after consulting with his assistant, the referee changed his decision and a goal kick was given.
Bay continued to enjoy the majority of possession and it was Robinson who went closest to giving Whitley victory, firstly when his shot from Novak’s pass was blocked almost on the line, then after Chow had headed his cross just beyond the far post, Robinson looked certain to score when he fired a low shot through a crowded defence but Jamieson somehow got a foot to the ball just before it crossed the line, deflecting it past the post.
Penrith defended in numbers but created little in reply and were probably grateful to hold out for a point which may prove valuable in their battle to stay clear of the relegation zone.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Brooking, Novak, C Smith, Anderson, Downey (Fairley 45 mins), Fawcett, Burns (McFarlane 45 mins), Kerr (Scroggins 69 mins), Chow, Robinson.