Whitley Bay’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end thanks to a wonder goal at Dunston.
But they can count themselves extremely unfortunate not to have taken a share of the spoils from what was a very closely contested game.
A tremendous goal from prolific striker Andrew Bulford was all that separated the sides, the winner coming just eight minutes from time.
Dunston had started the season in hugely impressive style and came into the match with a 100 per cent record, having scored 18 goals without reply in their previous three games.
But they were made to battle to the final whistle as Whitley matched them in all departments until that stunning late goal.
Bay boss Paddy Atkinson gave his players a big pat on the back after the game, despite the result and felt that Whitley were the better side.
He said: “I was disappointed with the result, but very happy with the performance.
“They all gave 100 per cent and played some fantastic
“I knew if they (Dunston) were going to score it would need to be a ‘worldie’ and it was. I was just disappointed we gave a way a sloppy corner before the goal.
“People watching that game will think ‘what a great game’ but they need to realise we’re rebuilding, and under the financial constraints that we have.
“Dunston are a very good side and have been for many years and they’ll be there at the end of the season
without a doubt.
“This is a place where you’ve got to take all your chances because you’ll not get many of them.
“Adam Shanks needs to get that bit of luck after stepping up a league and of course he’s playing against better keepers now.
“But we’re miles ahead of where we were last year and there’s a great team spirit. I’m still on the lookout to strengthen the side with an extra striker.”
Having missed the midweek cup replay at Ryhope, Callum Anderson returned in what was the only change to the Bay starting line up.
The contest burst to life in the 20th minute when Adam Shanks was presented with a chance on goal after the ball had ricocheted into his path from a defender, but with the home side appealing in vain for an offside flag, he could not get enough power on his shot and it was blocked by keeper Liam Connell.
Play immediately switched to the other end where Matthew Briggs was denied by Andrew Jennison.
Nine minutes later, Alex Kempster broke away down the left wing and went round Connell as the keeper raced out to challenge him.
He cut in and tried to slot the ball home from a narrow angle but slipped as he did so and the ball went harmlessly into the side netting.
Defences were mostly on top with chances at a premium but Dunston finished the half strongly and went close twice in the final four minutes.
Firstly Briggs raced through on goal but Jennison spread himself well, blocking the shot.
Right on the half time whistle, Dale Burrell tried his luck with a 20 yard shot but Jennison was equal to it, pushing the ball away from goal.
Soon after the interval, Josh Day cleared a dangerous ball across the six yard box from Bulford just ahead of Richardson.
Adam Shanks, playing up front as a lone striker, had been working hard but with limited reward and just before the hour mark, he was replaced by Kris Goss.
The change soon had an impact when Goss was played clear on the right. Sensing danger, Connell again raced out of goal to challenge for the ball but mistimed his tackle and brought down the Bay striker.
It was too far out for it to be considered that a goalscoring opportunity had been denied but Connell was rightly cautioned for the offence.
Soon afterwards, Whitley had a great chance when a free kick was floated across goal by Steve Gibson and Michael Laws sent a header back into the goalmouth, causing confusion in the home defence.
Goss was well placed to capitalise but could not apply
the finishing touch and the ball was scrambled away.
With the home side appealing for a foul, Alex Kempster did well to shrug off a sturdy challenge as he cut in from the left but Connell got behind his shot and kept the ball out.
Dunston then went close when Wilkinson sent a header just wide and two minutes later, Laws was cautioned when he brought down Steven Richardson as the striker
was about to break clear.
It was a more open game now with both sides searching for a breakthrough.
A quick break by Whitley saw Kris Hughes play the ball just beyond the advancing Callum Anderson near the back post, then moments later, Goss crossed into the box and when Mark Bertram side stepped a defender his gilt edged chance was saved by Connell.
In a well organised Bay defence, Richard Flynn and Chris McDonald were particularly impressive, as they battled for every ball and Dunston were getting few clear cut chances on goal, despite forcing a succession corners.
When Jennison made a good save low down to deny Bulford it began to look as if Whitley would at least earn a point, but then with eight minutes remaining, they unnecessarily conceded another corner.
After the ball was played deep across the 18 yard box, it was cleared only as far as Burrell who played it back across goal where Bulford fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game and Dunston comfortably retained their lead, their only scare coming in the final minute of normal time when Kempster crossed into the box but Goss saw his shot safely gathered by Connell.
For long periods of the game, Whitley effectively contained the Dunston midfield and so limited the hosts’ goal scoring threat but neither Shanks nor Goss with their contrasting styles, were able to break down the home side’s characteristically strong defence.
Nevertheless, this was a very encouraging Bay performance against one of the title favourites and bodes well for the future.
WHITLEY BAY: Jennison, Day, McDonald, Anderson, Laws, Flynn, Hughes, Bertram, Shanks(Goss 58mins), Gibson, KempsterSubstitutes not used: Gladstone, Young, Buzzeo, Norris