Whitley Bay 2-1 Sunderland RCA
Whitley are deservedly through to the 3rd Round of the League Cup but were made to battle all the way by a well organised Sunderland RCA side.
Among four changes to the Whitley side that impressively defeated Marske United at the weekend, 21 year old Connor Campbell, top scorer for the Reserves this season, made his debut while Noah Summers, Liam Brooks and Alex Kempster all returned to the starting eleven.
RCA started in lively fashion and a free kick played into the goalmouth saw Cassidy’s close range effort blocked. From the resultant corner, the ball was headed wide of goal by Callen. Whitley’s first real attack came when Aiden Haley surged forward from midfield playing the ball through to Brooks whose cross was pushed out by veteran keeper Keith Finch. In the 17th minute, Kempster raced onto a long ball but stumbled as Finch came out to clear the danger for the visitors. Two minutes later Haley fired a 25 yard shot not far over the bar.
Whitley were gradually building up the pressure and Kempster drilled a ball low across the face of goal with no one able to apply the finishing touch.
Moments later, Summers was cautioned after a foul on the edge of the Bay penalty area but from a position of danger, Armstrong’s free kick failed to test Tom Flynn and flew wide of the target. Haley then set up Brooks whose 20 yard shot on the turn almost crept in at the far post with Finch almost caught off guard.
The visitors then countered and there was a scramble in the Bay goalmouth which might have resulted in a goal but Ross Wilkinson made a vital clearance off the line to avert the danger.
Whitley took the lead in the 33rd minute when Peter Glen-Ravenhill played the ball through from midfield to Brooks who quickly controlled it before crashing an unstoppable shot beyond Finch.
Five minutes later Brooks had the ball in the net for a second time but the offside flag had been raised. Whitley were well on top now and when Kempster burst forward he was fouled on the edge of the box but Potter’s free kick was deflected wide by Armstrong. As at Marske three days earlier, Chris Salmon was playing a very effective wing back role, combining defence with foraging runs down the right wing.
Brooks in particular was having an excellent game and he set up Whitley’s second goal four minutes from half time. Collecting the ball on the edge of the box, he played an inch perfect pass through the RCA defence and Tom Potter timed his run perfectly, slotting the ball into the far corner of the net. Continuing to press forward, Jack Walker almost set up a third goal but Finch got to his cross just ahead of Brooks and punched the ball away.
Comfortably in the lead at the break, Whitley were forced back on the defensive on the restart, with Flynn saving from O’Neill before Callen and Richardson both had shots repelled. Another effort from Callen flew narrowly wide before an error by Summers gave possession back to the visitors and Page set up Callen who was not to be denied for a third time and beat Flynn with a powerful shot from inside the box. RCA were now back in the game and Ross Wilkinson, dominant in the air, was playing a crucial role at the heart of the Bay defence.
Whitley might have restored their two goal advantage midway through the half when man of the match Brooks raced forward before playing the ball wide to Potter who blazed his shot high over the angle of bar and post.
It came as something of a surprise when after one of his best games in Bay colours, Brooks was substituted 16 minutes from time with 17 year old Cam Cunningham taking his place.
Both sides continued to attack in the closing stages, Kempster seeing a shot put behind by Preston while at the other end Flynn was also forced to concede a corner. Eight minutes from time Walker almost deceived the visitors with a ball across goal that only just drifted past the far post. Campbell linked up well with Kempster in another Bay attack while there were a few nervous moments for Bay fans as RCA battled for the equaliser that would have seen the game decided on penalties. Into stoppage time, Campbell played Cunningham through and the substitute curled a shot just past the top corner. A late, hopeful cross into the Bay goalmouth was comfortably held by Flynn and shortly afterwards, Whitley were able to celebrate a third consecutive hard fought victory.
WHITLEY BAY: Flynn, Salmon, Walker, Haley(Charmey 85mins), Wilkinson, Summers, Potter, Glen-Ravenhill, Campbell, Brooks(Cunningham 74mins), Kempster(Brannen 85mins)
Substitutes not used: Jasper, Cornish
Referee: Steven Lennon
Cautions: Summers, Wilkinson