Dunston UTS 1 Whitley Bay 2
FA Vase Round 6
5 March 2011
Words & Pictures Courtesy Graham Yapp
Dunston UTS were beaten but not outclassed by FA Vase holders Whitley Bay in a splendid quarter-final confrontation between the Northern League rivals. With a two-legged semi-final ahead, and Coalville, King’s Lynn and Poole Town in the hat as potential opponents, few would now bet against a third successive Wembley appearance for the Bay.
Dunston arrived at this stage with three home ties followed by two away wins and a 13-1 goal ratio. They saw off Stansted of the Essex Senior League in round 5 and Andrew Bulford had eight of those goals to his name. Whitley Bay joined, as holders, in round two, and have a 15-3 aggregate from two home and two away ties. Paul Chow scored seven of them and he has netted in all four rounds. Something therefore had to give, which is why this tie had been hotly anticipated in these northern parts, and 1496 of us turned up to watch.
The Dunston programme announced quite rightly that this was the biggest game in the club’s history, and there was a tangible buzz around the ground as spectators arrived as early as 1pm to take up their chosen positions to watch. Both teams ambled around on the pitch before the warm-up in their dress tracksuits. Before kick-off, there was a minute’s warm applause in memory of Dunston physiotherapist Matty Annan, who had died suddenly last weekend.
Any feeling that Dunston were showing too much respect to the visitors was dispelled in the early minutes. They took the lead and held it at the interval, and had enough in the tank to fight back after going 2-1 down, but in the end the stronger side won.
Whitley Bay got their equaliser early in the second half so they could continue to play in their preferred style. They had come out after the interval a full three minutes before their hosts and started the second half full of intent. Possibly, choice words of wisdom from the management were ringing in the ears. The first real chance of the second half fell to Whitley Bay’s Lee Kerr (who has four Vase goals this season himself) and although there was no power in the header, the neutrals like me felt that the goal was coming. Then a cross from the right was flicked on by Gary Ormston and Paul Chow had enough time to control the ball and smash an unstoppable shot to keep up his scoring record. 1-1, and within two minutes, Chow almost had his second. A horrendous miskick by home keeper Liam Connell almost presented him with a gift, but Connell redeemed himself by diving bravely at Chow’s feet. However, the tide had turned and in due time the more casual Dunston supporters were leaving before the end to beat the traffic.
Both sides had started the game well. The first chance was a diving header after five minutes for Dunston’s Steven Preen, from a cross by Fergal Harkin after good work by Lee McAndrew. The physical Whitley presence of Chow and the pink-booted strike partner Kerr were already causing problems for the home side, but an eighth minute header was straight at Connell. Their battle with the centre-backs looked to be crucial and a great clearance by Dunston’s centre-back Ben Cattanach snuffed out another chance on 20 minutes. The best Dunston offered in this phase of the game was a direct free-kick from Terry Galbraith, sent wide.
In the 23rd minute, Dunston lost Preen with an arm injury and substitute Stephen Goddard got himself booked almost immediately. Whitley’s Paul Robinson had a good turn and shot, and Cattanach was lucky with a sliced clearance that went over his own bar, as the Bay got themselves on top. Therefore the Dunston lead came against the run of play in the 35th minute. Goddard caused a ripple of laughter with his back towards the goal as he miscontrolled the ball and it hit his standing leg. However, from the rebound the ball was played forward by Harkin to Bulford who had time to steady himself before smashing an unstoppable shot past Kyle Hayes for his ninth Vase goal of the season. The home side held on to the lead comfortably enough until the half-time whistle.
It was clear in cup-tie football that Whitley Bay would have to attack after the break. The crucial point would be Dunston’s approach, whether they would sit back and play on the break. The fact that the equaliser came so soon meant that the pressure never really built on the visitors. However, all credit to Dunston whose heads stayed firmly up. After the equaliser, Goddard’s shot forced a full length one-handed diving save from Hayes in the 66th minute. Hayes also tipped over a cross-shot from Bulford after Harkin had seized on an error in midfield. A drilled cross from Galbraith allowed a header for Michael Dixon, but substitute defender Pounder did enough in the box, and there was another moment of panic in the Whitley Bay six-yard box when a mishit shot bounced around. Fair play to Dunston for looking to win the tie with their home advantage.
A calm and classy finish after 81 minutes settled the game in favour of the visitors and removed the threat of extra time. The ball was won by Kerr who put Chow through for a one-on-one. Chow rounded the keeper, stayed on his feet and finished with enough care to miss the defender rushing back to block. Despite Dunston’s valiant attempts to get an equaliser, Whitley had the best chance of the final minutes. Chow set up full-back Craig MacFarlane but a good block from Connell kept the game alive for a few minutes more, before the Bay took the ball into the corners to run the clock down.
For the passing neutral ‘hopper such as myself, this counts as a really good game because the result was in doubt right up to the final whistle. I loathe one-sided games where one side is three up by half-time. These two sides were great ambassadors for their step five league, and I shall certainly make a point of coming up to the north-east again. Of the Vase quarter-finalists, I’ve also seen King’s Lynn and Leiston in action this season, and the latter went out to Coalville Town. I have to say that a Linnets v Whitley Bay final is my bet if they avoid each other in the semi-final draw. Regular readers of my blog can already do the maths because the dynamics of semi-final draws have been geekalysed – there is a one in three chance that they await each other next, over two legs.
Thanks again to Graham for his report. What he didn’t mention was that he went to this game thanks to randomly asking someone on Twitter to pick a colour; I said “blue” and sent him to this game. For more random hopping visit Graham’s brilliant blog ModusHopperRandom.
So, Whitley march on towards yet another final? Or can someone stop them? Visit The FA website on Monday to see the semi final draw.