Blues thank God for vital contribution
Michael Bailey Whitley Bay 3, 0 Lowestoft Town (Lowestoft win 4-3 on aggregate): Sometimes in football you know when you witness a defining moment - be it in a game, a tie or a cup run.
Whitley Bay 3, 0 Lowestoft Town (Lowestoft win 4-3 on aggregate)
Sometimes in football you know when you witness a defining moment - be it in a game, a tie or a cup run.
As Jamie Godbold latched onto Gary McGee's clever flick in the fifth minute of injury time to bag Lowestoft Town just one more goal at Crown Meadow in the first leg of their FA Vase semi-final, it felt more important than the previous three put together.
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What it did leave was Whitley Bay needing to match the Blues' first leg performance on their own patch, in front of 2,000 fans cheering Howay the Bay.
The soggy conditions ensured Town's all white away kit would not be glistening for long and straight from Lowestoft's kick-off, a wave of Whitley Bay players swarmed on their Suffolk opponents as if on a cavalry charge and in the bitterly cold conditions, against as side who looked a completely different proposition from the first leg, Lowestoft froze.
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Town's miraculously returning goalkeeper Andy Reynolds, with dislocating hip, could not react to left-back Lee Picton's long throw and Brian Smith glanced his header into the far corner after only four minutes.
After four more, Paul Robinson drilled an unstoppable right foot shot off the underside of the crossbar from 25 yards, sending Hillheads into a wildly contradictory mixture of disbelief and belief, and Town on the ropes when striker Paul Chow headed in from another Picton throw.
Twenty minutes gone and Bay had matched Town's first half performance a Crown Meadow. In fact, as they were carving Lowestoft open with alarming regularity, it looked like being a cricket score.
If Lowestoft had drawn up a do's and dont's list before the game, most of the latter would have been ticked off. They were playing deep and failing to string two passes together, while Russell Stock was looking a lonely figure on his own up front as Town struggled to deal with anything within 30 yards of their penalty area.
And then, the game gradually changed. Very gradually.
Whitley continued to effortlessly create chances. Chow found himself through on Reynolds' goal twice before half-time, only for the stopper to make one cracking save, while the striker failed to hit the target with his second when he should have scored.
Bay remained confident and some exhibition keep-ball from Robinson exemplified their confidence in having enough time to complete their Vase recovery - no doubt aided by the sight of the Town 'keeper limping around his penalty area.
With the second half came the emergence of a Lowestoft side determined to not only rediscover some semblance of cohesion, but protect their one-goal aggregate advantage with everything they had.
Bay still had their chances. Picton could only drive his effort over from inside the Town box before putting his head in his hands, while Reynolds - with his fitness clearly deteriorating by the minute - somehow getting down to Lee Kerr's header, before the Town defence rushed to pop their stopper's hip back into it's home.
Substitute Gary McGee was finally giving Town a link with their midfield and as the half ticked by, a quiet whisper of uncertainty crept around Hillheads for the first time during the afternoon.
Whitley were snatching at their chances, with Smith skewing over before Reynolds made a wonderful double save to deny another Robinson piledriver before smothering the Bay follow up.
From the depths of first half despair, Town were looking more solid as the half went on. Captain Marcus Saunders, with Neil Plaskett alongside him and Darren Cockrill in front, were swatting away a barrage of long balls and driven crosses.
While at the other end, McGee and Bradley Hough were finally giving the home defence something to think about as they looked to exploit the gaps Whitley were leaving at the back.
Town failed to create a clear-cut chance all match but it did not matter. Smith sent his thumping header wide in injury time and with it went Whitley Bay's last chance to force extra-time.
And so Godbold's late strike last weekend proved to be Town's ticket to Wembley. The Trawler boys invaded the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate a semi-final win that looked so unlikely earlier on in the afternoon. The rest, as they say, is history.
t Whitley Bay: Burke 5, Taylor 8, Picton 8, Smith 7, Coulson (capt) 6, Graham 6, Moore (Minto 78, 5) 6, Robson 6, Chow (Woodhouse 63, 5) 7, Kerr 7, Robinson 9. Subs not used: Dugdale, Livermore, Douglas
Goals: Smith 4, Robinson 8, Chow 19
Booked: Graham 70 (foul on Godbold)
t Lowestoft Town: Reynolds 8, Poppy 6, Potter 6, Woodrow 6, Saunders (capt) 8, Plaskett 8, Godbold 6, Darren Cockrill 8, Stock 5 (McGee 52, 8), Hough 7, King 6. Subs not used: McKenna, Hunn, Bloomfield, Rix
Booked: McGee 80 (foul on Burke)
t Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Preston)
t Attendance: 2,059