Spirited Spittal performance undone by Whitley Bay penalty
Whitley bay SC 2-1 Spittal Rovers
Dan McDonald’s spot kick early in the second half was enough to settle things in favour of the hosts despite a determined, hard working performance from a severely depleted Spittal on Saturday.
Spittal had previously fielded back to back unchanged sides, but manager Scott Mitchell was forced to make no fewer than five alterations to his starting lineup for this one with Stevie Mason, Richard Baxendale, Will Short, Conor Duffy and Ben Amers all drafted in across the park. They all bedded in well, however, and at times, the side in black & white really took the game to their opponents.
Duffy went close early doors with a powerful shot from distance struck over the crossbar before Brian Blackburn saw his effort deflect wide after hitting defender Thomas Bodley on the way through. Various corners were swung in, but the closest the Seasiders went was via a promising move down the left hand side - Baxendale’s ball down the flank glided into the path of striker Craig Bell, the teenager flicking the ball towards Amers whose rasping effort was gathered down low by Bay keeper Kieran Green.
The tide then turned and it was the hosts who looked the more likely to break the deadlock - the pace of Adam Gourley offering a threat down the left. Some dangerous, direct runs from the stocky winger were dealt with by Ben Fairbairn & Short effectively, however and it was from the other side that the opener was manufactured - Ross Seaman picking up a slack pass in the middle of midfield to slide the ball into Jake Betts, whose reverse pass was powered home by the well positioned McDonald.
Whitley skipper Liam Blythe then headed narrowly wide from a set piece before McDonald almost fooled Mason with a well planned free kick on the edge of the box, the latter pulling off a fantastic save to deny him. Baxendale then made some important last ditch challenges to deny goal scoring opportunites before winning an important header under his own crossbar and booting another off the goal line following an almighty scramble in the area.
Niall Jones’s wing play almost fashioned something late on in the half with Marco Lambert’s vision also offering a threat, but it was Duffy who was to create the equaliser - a drilled pass into Amers saw the youngster spin his man impeccably before blasting his right footed shot hard and low into the bottom corner, giving Green now chance.
After the interval the game appeared to be significantly more open with the home side utilising the breeze at their backs. McDonald went close when he blasted over. Mason then made some great decisions to nullify some long, wind assisted through balls, but the persistance of Bay eventually saw them rewarded when the Rovers stopper was adjudged to have clipped the striker rather than the ball - McDonald regaining his sides lead by sending Mason the wrong way with a confident, well taken penalty.
With striker Bell carrying a knock and nothing on the bench to change things, the visitors effectively played with ten men for long periods, but this did not deter them and they went close to levelling when Amers lobbed the ball over Green in nomansland only for full back Phil Gross to sweep up the bouncing ball behind his wandering goalkeeper.
Green then met a Baxendale cross just ahead of Amers and was tested twice more as the half progressed, Kyle Jeffrey fizzing in a cross to Bell who almost poked home at the near post. Jones also found himself getting the better of his marker moments later - the centre frustratingly just inches away from being turned home.
Bay then rattled the woodwork at the other end before Baxendale & Fairbairn did just enough to deter George Pickford. Mason then produced the save of the match when he palmed away Pickford’s long range shot, getting his hand to an effort that looked destined for the top bag. The Geordies then held the ball up in the corners to run the clock down and despite Spittal’s attempts to regain possession, they found it difficult to get up the pitch to create anything else of any note.
An opening day win and two narrow defeats have therefore been recorded as they enter a set of three home fixtures in seven days. Availability of players is to prove key if the team is to reach it’s full potential and finish in the higher rankings this season.