Whitley Bay derby win secures first division status
Whitley Bay ensured that they will be playing Northern League first division football next season with victory over local rivals West Allotment Celtic on Tuesday evening.
The result means Allotment, who were playing their final game of the season, will have an anxious wait to see if they will also retain their top flight status.
With Norton & Stockton Ancients and Bedlington Terriers already doomed, the final relegation place will be filled by Durham City unless they can pick up the seven points from their final four games, two of which are away to North Shields and Whitley Bay.
Allotment will go down if City escape, so they will be hoping their North Tyneside neighbours can do them a favour in the final two weeks of the season.
In bitterly cold, wintry conditions at Hillheads, Whitley started brightly and took an 11th minute lead when Adam Shanks won possession near the halfway line and raced clear before delicately chipping the ball over Allotment keeper Jak Wells.
With the wind and rain at their backs, Whitley were well on top and Callum Patton glanced narrowly wide from Shanks’ cross three minutes later.
The visitors gradually forced their way into the game and David Henderson tested Dan Gladstone with 28 minutes played, the young Bay keeper pushing the ball round the post.
Stephen Young then crossed for Sean McRoberts five minutes later but again Gladstone made the save.
Allotment captain Ian Dunn was cautioned for tripping Callum Munro as the Bay midfielder threatened to break clear, and while Whitley continued to create the majority of openings, they could not capitalise on their superiority and led by just the one goal at the interval.
The second half saw the visitors step up a gear and they drew level in the 56th minute when a speculative 25-yard shot from Paul Kane out on the left looped high over Gladstone and dropped just under the bar and into the far corner of the net.
Lifted by the equaliser, Allotment pressed forward in search of a second goal, and for a while it looked as if the game might follow a similar pattern to Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Sunderland RCA.
Midway through the half, Gladstone produced an excellent one-handed save to keep the scores level, and that proved to be a pivotal moment as just two minutes later Whitley were back in front.
The goal came when Jake Fowler delivered a superb ball low across the face of goal towards the back post. Just as it looked as if it was going out of play, Shanks somehow managed to get a foot to the ball and squeezed it inside the post from the narrowest of angles.
The striker’s 39th goal of the season put Whitley back in the driving seat and with Richard Flynn dealing confidently with high balls launched upfield by Allotment, ably supported by his fellow defenders, the visitors rarely looked like getting back in the game.
The victory was sealed ten minutes from time when substitute Ash Davis crossed from near the left byline and although Alex Kempster did not get a clean strike on the ball, he hit it well enough to beat Wells and end Allotment’s hopes.
Indeed, Whitley almost got a fourth goal when less than 60 seconds after replacing Callum Patton, substitute Nicolay Ivanov forced a point blank save from Wells after a cross from the right by the hard-working Shanks.
The final whistle signalled Whitley’s safety from the drop and was greeted with a mixture of delight and relief by manager Ian Chandler, who has had to guide his team through a congested fixture list of three games a week but can now concentrate on Saturday’s League Cup semi-final at Marske.
Meanwhile, the final promotion places from the second division were confirmed on Tuesday evening, with Chester-le-Street Town and Ryhope CW joining champions South Shields in the first division next season.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, McFarlane, McDonald, Gibson, R Flynn, Haley, Munro (Davis 59), Fowler (Reardon 84), Shanks, Patton (Ivanov 80), Kempster.