Whitley Bay fall agonisingly short in fight back at Ashington

Whitley Bay’s derby game at Ashington, played in appalling conditions at Woodhorn Lane, had just about everything – seven goals, another one disallowed, a penalty and a sending off.

In what was the proverbial game of two halves, fans were kept on the edge of their seats right up to the final whistle with Whitley staging a magnificent fight back after going four goals down inside the first 36 minutes.

With the near gale force wind at their backs in the first half, Ashington swept into an early lead, taking only nine minutes to break the deadlock, Dylan Williamson seizing on a rebound after Andy Jennison failed to hold onto Kyle Downey’s 25-yard shot.

It got worse for the visitors six minutes later when a free kick from Olly Hotchkiss was cleared only as far as Michael Dixon, who drove the ball into the net with Jennison again appearing to be at fault.

Almost from the restart, Whitley forced the ball upfield into the teeth of the gale and Sam Norris crossed into the box where the Ashington defence failed to clear the ball and it was deflected behind for a corner.

Back down the other end, Downey tested Jennison with a long range effort but this time the Bay keeper got behind the ball and made a comfortable save.

When Norris again broke away down the Bay right, Kyle Oliver conceded a corner but Whitley were unable to capitalise and when the ball was played back downfield, Andrew Johnson played it into the path of Williamson, who made it 3-0 with just 22 minutes gone.

A good break from Adam Shanks briefly threatened but he delayed his shot when well placed and the chance was lost.

Ashington’s fourth came on 36 minutes when neat play set Williamson away and he outpaced Michael Laws before slotting the ball past Jennison to complete his hat-trick.

Six minutes before the interval, a cross from Norris deceived Colliers keeper Conor Grant, clipping the angle of post and bar, but that was the nearest Whitley came to reducing the arrears in the first half.

After the interval it was Ashington’s turn to face the elements and Whitley were soon pushing them back onto the defensive.

Nine minutes after the restart, Norris provided a tricky cross which Grant clutched just in front of the advancing Chris Youldon.

Two minutes later Callum Anderson made a surging run from midfield and played the ball through the Ashington defence for Youldon to poke past Grant into the net to raise spirits in the Bay side.

Midway through the half, Richard Flynn, who had already been booked, and Ben Harmison became involved in an incident of tugging and pushing near the halfway line in front of the main stand. Flynn was shown a second yellow card and was sent off while Harmison was also booked.

Down to ten men it looked grim for Bay, and with Adam Shanks struggling to make an impact he was replaced by Jack Foalle for the final 20 minutes.

However, Bay fans were soon cheering when the impressive Norris, a former Collier, sent in a cross-shot from wide on the right and the ball curled beyond Grant and just inside the far post.

The goal set up a dramatic final 15 minutes as Whitley pushed forward with wave after wave of attacks.

Chris McDonald went close with a tremendous run down the left wing and when his first shot, a 25-yard effort, rebounded back into his path, his second attempt flew wide of the target.

A moment of controversy came with ten minutes left when Michael Laws, sent up front to bolster the attack, appeared to force a close range header over the line before Grant clawed it back, but the assistant referee did not signal a goal and play was allowed to continue.

Three minutes later, Foalle went to ground under a challenge from Ben Christensen as the young striker raced into the box and Whitley were awarded a penalty. Youldon’s spot kick was parried by Grant but Youldon made amends, reacting quickly and knocked the loose ball into the net for Whitley’s third.

Ashington were hanging on and after breaking away upfield were happy to run down vital seconds by keeping possession of the ball near the corner flag.

Whitley tried all they could to force an equaliser and after Youldon went close to completing his hat-trick, McDonald was not far off target, using the wind to good effect with a shot from distance that drifted only narrowly wide.

After five minutes of added time, allowed in part for the number of occasions that the ball had been blown out of play, the final whistle brought relief to the home players and their fans.

For Whitley, after a stirring fight back, it was a frustrating outcome when a draw would probably have been a fair result.

Whitley Bay: Jennison, Day, McDonald, Anderson (Blake 87), Laws, Flynn, Norris, Gibson, Shanks (Foalle 71), Youldon, Williamson (Atkinson 55). Subs not used: Gladstone, Hughes.