WHITBY Town’s winning pre-season run was ended by fellow FA Vase winners and current holders Whitley Bay on Saturday, in a game which turned on an incident five minutes from time.
The Blues, some two divisions above their Tyneside visitors in the non-league pyramid, started well with Callum Martin firing over from the edge of the box early on and Andy Campbell lobbing narrowly high and wide from a similiar distance.
Manager Tommy Cassidy was without newcomer Tom Marron or Ashley Lyth, so started with the versatile Andy Leeson at right-back, otherwise it was the same Whitby side who won 3-0 at Pickering last week.
Ibby Hassan, who shrugged off a dead leg picked up in that game, came close with a bicycle kick from a corner that looped just over the top.
Bay, who made history with a third successive triumph in the FA Vase this past May, saw Paul Chow drive wide of the near post on 36 minutes but should have been behind moments later.
Highly-rated goalkeeper Kyle Hayes cleared straight to Campbell, leaving the former Middlesbrough marksman with an open goal. But the 32-year-old shot early with his wrong foot from 20 yards, chipping the ball just wide.
The second half was a tame affair in front of goal, punctuated by a number of changes.
Matthew Calvert, a young ex-Morecambe Reserve keeper replaced Tom Courtney, with tall striker Rob McDermid (Kirkbymoorside) and midfielder Marc Ellison, signed from Hartlepool, replacing Leeson and Sam Hodgson on the hour.
Local lad Jake Faichney replaced Campbell, who had earlier argued angrily with Cassidy in the first half after an apparent difference of tactical opinion.
The only real stand-out moment before the late winner, were the forced substitutions of Town’s Dave McTiernan and Bay’s Dean Deagle after the Whitley player reacted by grabbing McTiernan around the head after the winger turned forward’s sliding challenge by the far touchline.
With it being an exhibition game, both sides were allowed to keep 11 players on the field and the flashpoint enabled Ryan Fletcher, formerly of Darlington’s youth set-up, to get a run out up front in a straight swap.
Bay, who missed out on promotion to the division below on goal difference last season, finally started to show some threat through Deagle’s replacement. The shaven-headed and orange-booted striker Lee Kerr was allowed back onto the field, but hooked just wide when well placed.
The visitors, cheered on by around 100 travelling fans, many of which welcomed ex-Newcastle legend Cassidy particularly enthusiastically, changed keepers themselves midway through the second period.
However, it was to be at the other end that the next keeping error was to come.
Calvert got nowhere near a through ball on the edge of his area, after a breakdown in communication with his defence and Michael McMullen, himself only introduced just after the restart, rounded him and slotted home with five minutes remaining.
Late on, Faichney side-footed wide at the other end, but it was painfully evident all afternoon that Cassidy’s need for a striker and a creative midfielder has never been more pressing.
Whitby Town: Courtney (Calvert 60), Leeson (McDermid 60), White, Hassan, Burgess, Hodgson (Ellison 60), Martin, Blackford, McTiernan (Fletcher 76), A Campbell (Faichney 66), Robinson. Attendance: 242