Whitley Bay upset the odds as they deservedly earned a Tuesday night replay at Hillheads after holding Matlock Town to a goal less draw in their FA Cup tie in Derbyshire on Saturday.
The Evo-Stik premier division hosts, who play two leagues above Bay, failed to make their superior status count and neutral fans would have been hard pressed to identify which was the higher ranked team.
The game developed into a midfield battle with a lack of goalmouth action at either end, and some of the home fans seemed to feel they would have been more entertained at the fairground across the road.
Not so the visiting supporters, who witnessed a disciplined performance from their side with every Bay player making their contribution.
With Mark Bertram and Jake Richardson both injured, Richard Flynn and Phil Lumsden returned to the starting line-up on a sunny afternoon at the attractively situated Autoworld Arena.
In a promising start, Alex Kempster broke clear down the left wing but his cross from close to the corner flag drifted just beyond the far post.
With 11 minutes played, Andrew Jennison made a low save from Liam Gaughan, then in Whitley’s next attack, Chris McDonald’s cross from the left was turned behind for a corner, which the hosts defended comfortably.
There was a delay in play just past the quarter hour following a clash of heads involving Kempster and Matlock keeper George Willis. Fortunately both players were able to continue following lengthy treatment.
The first real chance for Matlock came shortly before the half hour when a header from Oscar Radford, following a ball played deep to the back post, was gathered almost on the goal line by Jennison, with Michael Laws in close attendance.
Two minutes later a timely tackle by Richard Flynn halted an attack from Matlock’s Ben Algar.
With 32 minutes played, Adam Shanks was cynically tripped by Harry Coates just as he was about to break clear on goal, a foul that earned the Town defender a yellow card.
Five minutes later Phil Lumsden appeared to be tripped 20 yards from goal but play was allowed to continue.
The most threatening move of the half from Matlock came two minutes before the interval when Edward Cribley cut in from the left past two defenders but the danger was eventually averted with the ball being played behind for a corner.
Whitley had successfully contained their Evo-Stik hosts, whose main form of attack in the first half had been the long ball down the middle, and for the most part that was how it continued after the break, although soon after the restart, first half substitute Nicky McManus forced Jennison into action with a rare shot on target.
Referee Liam Jones was left with no option but to brandish a red card after 52 minutes when Matlock midfielder Nicky Travis, who had only been on the pitch seven minutes, felled Lumsden with an elbow in the face.
Playing against ten men the odds favoured Whitley, but they were unable to capitalise and the game was littered with controversial refereeing decisions that left both sets of players frustrated.
In the 59th minute, Laws made a vital interception to deny McManus as he closed in on goal after the hosts had seized on a poor Whitley free kick.
Then after striker Joel Purkiss had played a dangerous ball across the face of the Bay goal with no end product, Whitley responded with substitute Robbie Williamson cutting the ball back from the byline for Lumsden to fire well over the bar with a first time effort.
Shortly afterwards, Sam Norris, who was beginning to get the better of his full back, crossed from the right but Kempster’s shot was narrowly off target.
Whitley then forced two corners in quick succession but the Matlock defence held firm.
Continuing to press for a winning goal, Lumsden, who gave his best performance in Bay colours and was a man of the match contender, saw a shot blocked following a cross from Norris then headed the rebound over the bar.
Whitley’s best chance of the game came with six minutes left when Kempster was played clear, but from 20 yards, rather then using power, he attempted to place his shot wide of Willis but the keeper got his hands to the ball and the chance was lost.
One minute later, Whitley conceded a free kick 20 yards out in front of goal and Purkiss struck a powerful shot that crashed off the bar, with Jennison just getting his fingertips to the ball.
Despite five minutes of added time, neither side could break the deadlock and it was Whitley who were much the happier with the prospect of a home replay on Tuesday evening, kick-off 7.45pm.
Whitley Bay manager Paddy Atkinson was very pleased with the performance.
He said: “The information I got about them from Whitby was spot on and we got our tactics right. As with a lot of sides at this level they’re strong and physical.
“I thought everybody did well. From the sidelines you probably don’t realise the heat out on the pitch, but it affected some of them.
“Everything was clicking apart from attacking threat through Shanks, Kempster, who hadn’t been well during the week, and Norris.
“When you come away from home and get chances you’ve go to put one away, but at times today the decision making wasn’t quite right.
“Everything else was right and the players did very well.
“It’s sometimes harder against a team with ten men, they sit back and make it harder for you to come at them.
“I was pleased with the result and now we’ve got the replay on Tuesday.
“We’ll need to take stock of the injuries on Monday, they’re mainly little niggling ones.
“Hopefully we might have Bertram and Richardson back. They picked up injuries last week and weren’t quite ready for today.”
Whitley Bay: Jennison, Gibson (Day 89), McDonald, Flynn, Laws, Reid, Norris, Anderson, Shanks (Williamson 62), Lumsden, Kempster. Subs not used: Young, Guerin, Gladstone.