BILLINGHAM TOWN LINE UP: Bradley Young, Lee Moore (C), Kurtis Howes, Jack Connor, Kris Summers, Jamie Poole, Elliot Beddow, Reece Kenney, Kallum Hannah, Craig Hutchinson, Luke Hogan. Subs: Connor Smith, Shaun Ross, Connor Dunlavey, Jordan Patterson, Nick Cranston
GOALS: Craig Hutchinson (60', 91'), Kallum Hannah (63')
WHITLEY BAY LINE UP: Dan Lister, Craig McFarlane (C), James Martin, Lee Kerr, Tom Graham, Tom Bott, Kieron Parnaby, Sam Dinsley, Michael Colguhoun, Nathan Stephenson, Jeff Smith. Subs: James Proctor, Lewis Walton, Tom Bexton, Lewis Orrell, Sonny Best
If Saturday’s headline was ‘Welcome to division one’ then Tuesday’s nights would be a ‘Welcome three points’. And a much deserved victory it was too!
As the smell of sea salt drifted into Hillheads towards the full time whistle, the taste of it would only have been a bitter one for the home contingent. The result may have come as a surprise to the Northern League fraternity, coming so soon after the weekends heavy home defeat to Stockton Town but there were reasons to be hopeful beforehand.
Paul Edwards made seven changes to the starting eleven, with some of the heavy hitters making ‘welcome’ returns along with a few debutants but the biggest story of the night belonged to Reece Kenney. Having suffered incessant metatarsal injuries and numerous setbacks, Kenney slot in as if he had never been away. He took a few heavy challenges tonight too and there were a few nervous looking glances in his direction but the redoubtable midfielder plugged on in gallant fashion ably supported by Jack Connor.The duo looked ever so comfortable together during the early weeks of last season and it is hoped the partnership can withstand the vigorous nature of division one.
Another plus point on the night was Kurtis Howes debut on the right wing with Elliott Beddow in behind. The pairing caused havoc in the first half and when Howes tired due to a lack of match fitness, Beddow moved like an Exocet missile when moved further up the pitch. Poor full-backs James Martin and Lewis Walton won’t experience a night like that again all season.
Town face promotion hopefuls Hebburn Town and then Ashington at Bedford Terrace in the league next week but not before an intriguing FA Cup encounter on Saturday against Yorkshire Amateur. Incidentally, Whitley Bay beat the Leeds based club a few weeks back in a friendly, so Town have an early indicator of the level of performance required in meeting Ossett United in the next round.
Town spent the opening twenty minutes, predominantly in Bay’s own half as the home side struggled for any meaningful possession despite displaying some neat play across the back four. Jamie Poole saw his early attempt on goal kept out by Dan Lister following a Lee Moore corner and Howes trickery ended with an arrowed drive that went wide. Town continued to press for an early advantage: Connor’s twenty yard strike rolled wide and Craig Hutchinson’s curling effort sailed over the crossbar. The seahorse’s only notable attempt on goal was a Jeff Smith free-Kick in the opening quarter of an hour.
Despite Town controlling the first half, the game was very much in the balance and Bay made two early substitution’s in an attempt to get a foothold. On came Walton and James Proctor for Martin and Michael Colquhoun respectively.
Lister was busier than Bradley Young in goal who had signed from Hartlepool United earlier in the afternoon. The Bay keeper had to dive across his goal-line to keep out Hutchinson’s shot and a quick breakaway at the other end saw Smith fire over.
Town finally made the breakthrough on the hour mark: Connor robbed Smith who took too long on the ball and the midfielder worked it across to HUTCHINSON who found the bottom corner from close range.
The second and killer goal soon followed. Beddow used his blistering speed from inside his own half to find his way deep into Bay territory - enough for him to pick out HANNAH lurking with intent inside the box. The former Synners striker made no mistake and although the majority of the players went to Hannah to celebrate - the goal was all Beddow’s in the making.
Bay attempted to push for a way back into the game but spaces were opening up for Billingham and it came as no surprise when Beddow was upended in the box in the closing stages. Up stepped HUTCHINSON to fire into the bottom right hand corner.
A much deserved victory and the players reciprocated the support to the Town faithful as they came off the pitch.