A bright and fresh afternoon saw us take on Blyth Town A. The visitors had been on an impressive run as of late, since arguably our finest performance of the season in the away fixture at South Newsham back in August.
We knew they would be baying for revenge after a humbling 5-2 defeat, and our lax approach to our warm-up was slightly concerning. This concern was proven when a straight ball over the defence was latched onto and dispatched with aplomb, across debutant keeper Danny Lister, in to the far corner of the goal inside the first 5 minutes. The next 10-15 minutes saw us give possession away sloppily and effectively chasing shadows as Blyth dealt comfortably with any foray forward.
A change in formation pushing, Paulie Bell up alongside lone striker Adam Newbrook, created more room in the centre of the park for the increasingly influential Liam Donnelly who began to dictate the tempo of our play. It didn’t take long for the equaliser to come, Sean Caffrey being played through and cutting in from the left slotted calmly past the on rushing keeper from 18 yards on the half-hour mark. Both teams were beginning to get the ball down and make use of the large pitch at Temple Park, Lister again saving well from a long range Blyth strike, following a good move from the visitors. With the quality of the game improving as it went on, the sublime was left for the stroke of half-time. Following a spell of pressure and good possession, Donnelly found himself in space 30 yards from goal. A run from deep by left back by Daniel “Spongy” Wilson was spotted by Donnelly and his majestically flighted chip over the Blyth defence was inch perfect for Spongy to control on the penalty spot with his first touch, taking him round the keeper in the process, to then finish in the unguarded net.
Half Time: Whitburn 2 – 1 Blyth Town A
As the half time team talk centred around continuing to do the basics right and play in the right areas, we were again slow out of the blocks and soon found ourselves pegged back on level terms. Lister was unlucky by saving a one on one with a Schmeichel-esque “starfish” block, only for the rebound to fall to the Blyth attacker who drilled in a low finish from the edge of the box.
Within 10 minutes we were soon behind again. Slow possession at the back invited Blyth to press us, and with our defenders reluctant to play long and relieve the pressure, we had our pockets picked and a cut back was smashed past the helpless Lister.
Last season going behind may have resulted in a capitulation, however Blyth’s third was a catalyst to spark a determination to get back in to the game. Our third of the afternoon was slotted away by Newbrook who then grabbed his second of the game soon after, poking finish past the keeper from a goal mouth scramble following a corner. The last ten minutes saw us sit back and soak up the Blyth pressure until the final seconds of the game. An in-swinging corner was well taken under his bar by Lister, only for a Blyth defender to head/barge in to him, spilling the ball from his grasp, in to the net for an extremely contentious equaliser. Despite having a great view of this, the ref deemed it a legitimate challenge and allowed the goal to stand, leaving us abjectly deflated not to finish with all 3 points.
All in all it was a great game to watch, with both teams playing some excellent football and without a bad word or tackle exchanged throughout.