Williamson comes off bench to win it for Whitley Bay

Michael Williamson about to score the only goal of the game.
Michael Williamson about to score the only goal of the game.

A goal from substitute Michael Williamson nine minutes from time proved decisive as Whitley Bay upset the form book with victory over title-chasing Dunston.

The 18-year-old midfielder, on loan from Gateshead, showed great composure to slot home the only goal of the game from 16 yards and seal all three points for Paddy Atkinson’s side.

It was only Dunston’s second defeat in 15 games, but with none of the top six sides winning, the result did not significantly damage their championship prospects.

While the outcome delighted the vast majority of the 300-strong crowd, the conditions were not conducive to attractive, flowing football, with the players having to contend with a strong and blustery wind blowing straight down the pitch.

Whitley included three new signings in their starting line-up – goalkeeper Thomas Flynn and midfielders Andy Ferrell and Sam Norris.

Meanwhile there were three familiar faces in the Dunston side, with former Bay FA Vase winners David Coulson, Gareth Williams and Gary Ormston making a return to Hillheads.

With the wind at their backs in the opening period, the visitors were expected to dominate proceedings but it soon became apparent that players on both sides were struggling to cope with the strength of the wind.

The first threat on goal came after 14 minutes when Ormston tested Flynn with a shot that the debutant keeper dealt with comfortably.

Three minutes later, Flynn showed his agility when a strong gust of wind caught a cross from Nicholas Kane and it took a last minute adjustment to stop the ball from curling into the top corner.

On the counter-attack, Whitley almost snatched a 25th minute lead when a mistake by the visitors let Peter Watling through on goal with only Connell to beat, but the keeper did well to deny the Bay striker, who should have done better.

Six minutes later another chance fell for Whitley when Norris crossed from the left to Alex Kempster who delayed his shot and saw his effort cut out by a defender.

Despite their territorial advantage, Dunston were struggling to penetrate a well disciplined Bay defence and they suffered a blow when top scorer Andrew Bulford had to be substituted after 35 minutes.

The only chance they were able to create in the remainder of the half was when a free kick from Williams 25 yards out on the left drifted across goal and just beyond the far post.

With the elements now in their favour, Whitley started the second period positively and Scott Blandford produced a testing 25-yard shot on goal that Connell saved low down.

The miss of the game occurred two minutes later when a loss of concentration by Whitley allowed Wilson to square the ball to Smith in front of an open goal but he somehow managed to blaze the ball over the bar.

Play continued to be rather scrappy with neither side able to gain any degree of control.

Dunston’s Wilson curled an effort high and wide, while at the other end, Blandford set up Kempster but he could not get a shot on target.

Ferrell was battling hard for every ball and his determination almost created a chance when he pressed forward on the edge of the Dunston 18-yard box, but his measured pass beyond the defence was gathered by the alert Connell just inches ahead of Robbie Bird.

With neither side able to master the conditions, it was increasingly looking as if the game would end in stalemate, but nine minutes from time Whitley capitalised on a mistake in the Dunston defence.

Craig McFarlane did well to keep the ball in play on the right touchline just inside the Dunston half before playing it towards the 18-yard box.

The visitors failed to cut the ball out and Kempster’s pass into space on the left edge of the area was seized on by Williamson, who beat Connell with a perfectly placed shot that gave the keeper no chance.

The visitors could not find a way back into the game and Whitley saw out the remaining minutes to record back to back wins for the first time since November.

The wind combined with a bobbly surface spoiled the game as a spectacle and Dunston will have felt that they did not deserve to lose, but the victory gives Whitley belief that their fortunes are changing.

There were certainly some encouraging performances, with Ferrell, arguably man of the match, showing the sort of leadership in midfield that has been missing in recent months, while Kempster covered just about every blade of grass on the pitch.

Flynn gave an assured display in goal, handling the ball confidently while Dominic McGarr was a commanding figure at the heart of the defence.

Indeed, not one Bay player on the pitch could be faulted for effort despite the awful conditions.

Bay manager Atkinson was clearly delighted with the outcome of the game.

He said: “Dunston are a top team and the conditions didn’t suit anybody, but we were very professional and well organised, especially in the first half.

“In those conditions it was all about who made a mistake, and they made a mistake and we took our chance and got the three points.”

Whitley Bay: Flynn, McFarlane, McDonald, Blandford, Laws, McGarr, Norris (Williamson 72), Ferrell, Watling, Bird, Kempster.