Whitley in white-out wipe-out

Robbie Bird with a header as the players battle through a blizzard at Consett.
Robbie Bird with a header as the players battle through a blizzard at Consett.

New Bay manager Paddy Atkinson was left in little doubt as to where his priorities lie after watching his side suffer a disappointing defeat in Arctic conditions at Consett.

Once again defensive errors proved costly, allowing the Steelmen to close to within a point of tenth place Whitley in this mid-table contest.

Following his appointment in midweek, Atkinson, who took his first training session on Thursday evening, was able to name Brad Brooking and Callum Anderson in his starting line-up, both returning to the side having been unavailable for Tuesday’s victory over Bedlington Terriers.

Paul Chow, who 24 hours earlier had stitches removed following his head injury, was named on the bench, as was Paul Robinson, who passed a late fitness test.

The game got underway with Whitley playing into the teeth of a bitterly cold gale force wind and heavy snow showers, which despite the all weather playing surface made it difficult to control the ball and keep it on the ground.

The opening goal came after just six minutes when a lack of concentration in the Bay defence allowed Luke Sullivan to head home unchallenged from a cross by Danny Craggs.

However, Whitley were level just two minutes later when Peter Watling’s well-placed shot from just outside the area crept into the corner of the net after Consett keeper Thomas Flynn got his fingertips to the ball but could not keep it out.

Whitley were put under pressure after 18 minutes when Dan Gladstone picked up a back pass, conceding an indirect free kick inside his area. However, the Bay keeper redeemed himself with a fine save, pushing a fiercely driven shot over the bar.

The strength of the wind was making it difficult for Whitley to mount attacks on the home goal and at times they made life difficult for themselves with high balls that swirled back into their own half, putting themselves under pressure.

However, they were working hard and in a rare break upfield, Robbie Bird’s cross from the right gave Watling a chance but he could not get enough power onto his header and the ball glanced wide of goal.

Whitley appeared to be weathering the stormy conditions and it was looking as if the sides would go in level at the interval but in the final minute of the half, former Bay winger Chris Moore went on a darting run, cutting in from the right eluding several half challenges before firing in a shot that Gladstone pushed away but only into the path of striker Michael Mackay who slotted the ball home to give the hosts a crucial half-time advantage.

Whitley and their large contingent of fans would have been anticipating a more attacking display in the second half but the wind dropped significantly as the game progressed with the elements less in their favour.

Early in the half, Chris McDonald cut in from the left and tested Flynn with a shot that the keeper could only grasp at the second attempt, just ahead of Hylton Laws. Four minutes later, the action swung to the other end where Mackay threatened but Gladstone forced him wide before saving his angled shot.

Just past the hour mark, Paul Chow was brought on for what was his 400th appearance in Bay colours, an outstanding achievement by one of Whitley’s all-time great players, but he was not able to make a significant impact and as he was quick to point out after the game, it was not one that he will wish to remember.

He had been on the field just five minutes when Consett, who looked stronger as the game progressed, got their third goal and effectively sealed the points.

Scott Prosser lost possession on the Consett left and Sullivan raced through the Bay defence before drilling a low shot across Gladstone and into the far corner of the net.

Paul Robinson came off the bench for the final 13 minutes and soon showed the rest of the Bay side what they should have been attempting earlier when Chow nodded down a high ball and taking advantage of the still significant wind, he unleashed a 25-yard shot that flashed past the top corner of the Consett goal.

With time running out, Craig McFarlane almost reduced the arrears with a powerful shot that clipped the top of the bar with Flynn well beaten.

A goal at that stage would at least have lifted Bay spirits even if it had not changed the outcome, but then, deep into stoppage time, another defensive mistake handed Consett a fourth goal, when a speculative 25-yard shot from Jonny Wright proved too powerful for Gladstone, who appeared to catch it above his head before allowing the ball to slip from his grasp, and although he held it at the second attempt, it had already crossed the line.

After the game, a clearly disappointed Paddy Atkinson highlighted the need to improve defensive play.

He said: “Obviously the weather played a big part. Today was about seeing the players and seeing the reasons why Whitley Bay haven’t been winning games.

“I don’t think the weather had anything to do with the goals we conceded to be honest. There was poor defending when we had plenty of time to clear our lines but we just tried to play nice balls into midfield and it kept coming straight back at the keeper. We’ll have to work on defence to make us a stronger unit at the back.”

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, Brooking, McDonald(Chow 61mins), Prosser(McMullen 81mins), Laws, Anderson, Bird, McFarlane, Watling, H Laws(Robinson 77mins) Kempster.

Substitutes not used: Day, Buzzeo.

Referee: Paul Keogh.