|Ebac League Division One||169|
|Saturday 14th November 2015||Sunderland Ryhope CA V Whitley Bay||2-1|
Match Report By Julian Tyley
History repeated itself at Meadow Park on Saturday when Whitley went down to a 2-1 defeat for the third year in succession.
On the balance of play this is a game that Whitley should have won, as they had the greater share of possession but despite good build up play they failed to break down a resilient, well organised defence and got only two shots of note on target all afternoon.
The hosts seemed content to soak up the pressure for much of the game, creating few chances of their own, but twice capitalised on defensive mistakes to extend their impressive unbeaten run to 15 games.
Playing down the slope, Whitley suffered a blow inside the first 15 minutes when Chris Reid, who has suffered a series of injuries over the past two years, limped off with a hamstring problem, with Josh Day taking his place in defence.
RCA went close after 16 minutes when Callen's header from a corner kick was cleared off the line by Stuart Bramley, who was taking the place of the unavailable Steve Gibson in the Bay defence.
Alex Kempster headed narrowly wide from a Mark Bertram corner after 27 minutes but Whitley’s best opportunity of the half came two minutes later when a well judged through ball from Chris McDonald reached Kris Hughes who drove a 20 yard shot across goal. The ball was heading for the far corner of the net but keeper Jordan Harkess dived full length to push the it round the post.
Typical of the pattern of play was a move when Callum Anderson played the ball through to Michael Bell who looked to have a chance of a shot on goal but his attempt was cut out by the Ryhope club’s defence. Day then combined with Bell to set up a chance for Kris Hughes but he fired over the bar. A rare break upfield saw Stephen Callen through on goal but he blazed his shot high over the bar when well placed.
In the final minute of the half, Whitley conceded possession deep inside the RCA half and the ball was quickly played up the left flank, over the Bay defence. Dan Gladstone raced out of his goal but was cautioned after bringing down Callen 30 yards out. Poor defending from the resultant free kick taken by Luke Proctor allowed Callen a free header at the back post and he put the Sunderland side ahead on the stroke of half time, a lead they were fortunate to hold on their first half showing.
Playing up the slope after the interval, Whitley had a half chance when Bell, preferred to Adam Shanks in the starting line up, was played through but his shot went the wrong side of the post.
Just before the hour mark, a first time effort from Mark Bertram crashed off the post with Harkess rooted to the spot. Shanks replaced Williamson on the hour as Whitley tried to find a cutting edge. They continued to have the majority of the possession and when Kempster went past Ross McNab near the left corner flag as the defender slipped on the increasingly wet surface, his cross into the box was cleared by a well marshalled home defence. After a quick break downfield, Proctor’s free kick was well saved by Gladstone but play soon reverted to the RCA half.
Whitley finally made their pressure count after 71 minute, Day’s ball finding Kempster who cut in across the edge of the 18 yard box before slipping the ball to Kris Hughes who slotted home the equaliser from 15 yards. It was no more than they deserved but two minutes later they were behind again after another defensive lapse. Following a throw in on the left, a free kick to RCA was not properly dealt with and when Hughes sliced an attempted clearance from inside the Bay penalty area, the ball fell for Colin Larkin who also failed to connect cleanly and it flew past Gladstone into the top corner of the net to put the hosts back in front.
Conditions were deteriorating as the persistent rain made the heavy pitch increasingly slippery. Whitley pushed forward in search of a second equaliser and Callum Anderson had a header saved before appeals for a penalty proved in vain after Kempster tumbled to the ground following a challenge in the box. The hosts defended in depth and were happy to play out the closing stages in their own half leaving Whitley frustrated along with their fans, who had travelled in large numbers to make it Meadow Park’s biggest league attendance of the season by some way.
WHITLEY BAY: Gladstone, Bramley, McDonald, Anderson, Laws, Reid(Day 12mins), Williamson(Shanks 59mins), Hughes, Kempster
Substitutes not used: Hudson, Norris, Richardson
Referee: Tony Peart
Cautions: Gladstone, Laws, Anderson
Paddy Atkinson was frustrated by yet another injury to one of his defenders and the lack of communication between players at key moments in the game.
“Yet again we lost a centre half (Chris Reid) to injury and it was after less than 15 minutes and it totally disrupts the shape. It’s happened time and time again and you wonder how many more times it can happen. We can’t keep losing players every game.
“It was always going to be a tough game on a sloping pitch. When you look at the way we played it was probably one of the better games we’ve played in a long time but then just two mistakes cost us. If we can get our full, strongest team out we’ve got a chance but with repeated injuries and then we’d got Steve Gibson away at a wedding, we’re having to rely on lads who aren’t what you’d class as first team regulars, so you’re always risking a slip up with a mistake somewhere. We’ve got to be on top of our game every week. We didn’t deal with their set play properly.
He was critical of the way his side conceded both goals. “Marking wasn’t tight for either goal, at the free kick and throw in. I keep saying to them ‘you need to be louder on the pitch, it costs you nothing to shout, communication needs to be better’.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Dan because he’s been great over the last few weeks but he could have done better with the first goal, organised his defence for the free kick and punched clear.
“It’s a lack of continuity and experience and we can’t just keep on changing the team week in week out and that’s what’s disappointed me today.
“They didn’t hurt us, all they did was lump the ball down the slope, we totally outplayed them and we’ve come away with nothing, that’s what’s frustrating for me.”