Albion made the short trip to the Glebe to take on neighbours Whickham with Phil Hodges the latest high profile injury casualty though Mario Kastrati & Sam Moore made returns to the bench. Whickham welcomed back players suspended after their Billingham Town fracas & were keen to get back to winning ways after dropping points at Birtley.
It was the hosts who started the brighter & Albion keeper Conor Gillespie was called in to action early on cutting out a cross in the 5th minute of the game. Five minutes later, Whickham’s Daniel O’Reilly ran down the right wing & launched a dangerous cross which no-one was able to latch on to, much to the relief of the Ryton defence.
Goalscoring chances were at a premium in a largely eventless first half in which Albion were seeing more & more possession as time progressed. Craig Barker had half a chance for the visitors on 22 minutes when receiving a pass from Callum Turnbull, but his effort was over the bar. A minute later saw Ryton conjure up a great footballing move which culminated in Leigh Shickle firing narrowly wide, but the fine passage of play brought generous applause from the spectators.
Whickham were next to create a chance when Craig Rook found an unmarked Chad Collins, & with the RACA defence napping, Collins had a good opportunity to test Gillespie, but he rushed his shot & it sailed over the bar.
Albion had a blow on 36 minutes when Adam Chrostowski jarred his knee in a routine tackle & limped off to be replaced by Sean Wilkinson making his belated debut.
There was drama in the Ryton box with a minute to the interval when Whickham’s Levi Oman badly miskicked a shot on goal, but the error turned out to be a great pass to Collins who struck the ball sweetly, bringing out a fine save from Gillespie. However that wasn’t the last chance of the half as Ryton produced another sweet move which cut through the Whickham ranks, Turnbull finding David Backhouse running into space, but his shot went narrowly wide & the half ended all square.
HT WHICKHAM 0 RACA 0
The second half started as tentatively as the first half did, the only shots of note being a tame effort from Will Forsyth for Albion on 52 minutes & a Craig Jelley strike for Whickham a minute later which was straight at Gillespie. Ryton were certainly playing the better football & almost got their noses in front from a free kick from the right hand side of the box. Shickle darted into the penalty area to meet the cross, losing his marker, but while heading the ball cleanly, he could only direct it straight at Whickham keeper John Mordey.
Then on 63 minutes Ryton had claims for a penalty when Josh Holland & Turnbull broke clear, Holland finding Turnbull in the Whickham box, shielding the ball from Mordey who seemed to push Turnbull in the back in his efforts to retrieve the ball. Neither referee Tom Chambers nor linesman Bill Dowens thought sufficient bodily contact had been made by Mordey & the claims were waved away. Perhaps sensing that Albion were beginning to get the upper hand in affairs, Whickham brought on Mark Fitzpatrick in what was to prove a game changing move, for within minutes of his arrival, the ‘Home Guard’ took the lead. A ball was launched forward straight down the middle of the pitch into the Albion box, where the defence waited for Gillespie to claim what should have been a comfortable catch. However Gillespie hesitated, & waited for the rearguard to take care of the situation & while everyone waited for one another to deal with it, COLLINS nipped in, said thank-you very much & popped the ball into the net.
After 70 minutes of a competent if unspectacular performance in which Albion were certainly playing the better football, the last 20 were a spectacular collapse in which Whickham were able to completely dominate. Albion brought on Mario Kastrati for his first action since early December, & shortly after that Craig Barker had a double effort, the first blocked by Mordey, the second by a defender but it was to prove a false dawn of a comeback. Albion brought on Ryan Burnyeat & Whickham introduced Mark Pattison, & it was the home side’s change that was to prove the more effective as PATTISON was on the scoresheet barely two minutes after coming on the pitch when he latched on to a cross from Sean Best to make it 2-0. Barely had the dust settled from that blow when FITZPATRICK scored a blinder of a goal he created himself then unleashed a superb shot from distance that Gillespie was powerless to get to.
Whickham were running riot now & Gillespie did well to block another effort from Fitzpatrick cutting in from the left, but the reprieve was short lived. If Fitzpatrick’s first goal was unstoppable, his second was shambolic from an Albion perspective. It started with a good run from Collins who found Pattison who in turn squared to FITZPATRICK from whom three defenders had inexplicably moved away from seconds earlier, & he was able to pick his spot at leisure to make it 4-0 on 84 minutes.
Albion at least then created a chance two minutes later when Shickle drilled in a low shot which forced Mordey into a diving albeit fairly comfortable save.
On 87 minutes Fitzpatrick might even have grabbed his hat-trick when he burst through again but on this occasion he screwed his shot wide. His afternoon was sadly to get worse as in the dying seconds of the game, he landed awkwardly on his ankle & he hobbled off to hospital in what looked like a suspected break. On this evidence he will be a big miss to Whickham & we hope his injury isn’t as bad as first feared.
FT WHICKHAM 4 RACA 0
A glance at this result suggests an easy victory but in fairness it was a fairly even encounter until the first goal went in, with Albion probably winning on points, but we have to learn to concentrate for the full 90 minutes. The excuse of it being a youthful side is wearing thin as many of the squad have racked up a lot of experience for their age & should by now have learnt how to see a game out. The footballing ability is clearly there but so is the tendency to implode, much to the frustration of Messrs Wilson, Dobie & Moore as is the increasingly Jekyll & Hyde characteristic of the team. A tough test awaits the lads at bang in form Thornaby on Tuesday.
Whickham will travel to Tow Law the same evening full of confidence after their performance in the last 20 minutes in this game.
WHICKHAM- Mordey, Brown, Soutar, Jelley, Fraser, Oman, Best, Collins, Swanston, O’ Reilly (Fitzpatrick 65), Rook (Pattison 76). Subs not used- Macintosh, Aiston, Donaldson,
RACA- Gillespie, Stoddart, Shickle, McMeekin, L Barker, Chrostowski (Wilkinson 36), Holland (Kastrati 72), Backhouse, Turnbull (Burnyeat 76), C Barker, Forsyth. Subs not used- Upperton, Moore
REFEREE- Tom Chambers
ATTENDANCE – 66