DURHAM went into their final Ebac Northern League fixture of the season, against Whitley Bay at Hillheads on Tuesday evening, missing a number of key players through injury, unavailability and suspension and with several more still well short of match fitness.
However, despite fielding a much weakened side City did start brightly and, buoyed by an early strike from Denver Morris, were much the better team for the opening twenty minutes until the Seasiders eventually got back on level terms through Craig Hubbard. A brace from Paul Chow, either side of the break, then followed as Whitley gradually took command and as the visitors visibly fell apart the home side came close to increasing their lead on numerous occasions before Chris Reid a fourth in stoppage time to claim a victory that was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
There were early chances for City when Ricky Fenwick volleyed wide from a Dan Madden free-kick that had only been half cleared and Dan Gladstone saved with his feet from Ryan McGorrigan after the striker had been played in by Morris.
Josh Gray then sent a low drive across the face of goal, and McGorrigan fired over the top before City eventually took the lead on 15 minutes when Gladstone was left in no-mans-land as he came for a Stephen Harrison cross that was headed clear by Leon Ryan but only as far as Morris who volleyed over the stranded keeper.
An interchange of passes between Morris and Andy Mogwo saw the latter pull his shot wide of the far post then Reid blazed wide at the far post for Bay after Ryan had headed an Alex Kempster corner back across goal before Hubbard brought the sides back level on 24 minutes with a left-foot strike from the edge of the area that found the corner of the net.
Bay’s Craig McFarlane had a shot that beat Dean Caris to come back off the inside of the post and Stephen Buzzeo fired a loose ball over the top, while for City Morris had a goalbound effort deflected wide off a defender and a chance for McGorrigan that easily cleared the bar as both sides looked for the all important third goal.
On 41 minutes Hubbard, scorer of Bay’s first, won the ball in midfield to send Chow racing clear and the former City striker made no mistake with a shot into the bottom corner to put the Seasiders in front for the first-time.
The game appeared over as a contest on 51 minutes when the City defence failed to clear a Kempster right-wing corner and Chow headed home his second of the game from almost on the line to put home side 3-1 up.
It was all Bay in the closing stages and deep into stoppage time, the Seasiders added a fourth when Reid headed home a Hubbard free-kick from inside the six-yard box as City again struggled to defend set pieces.
A bad defeat to end an eventful season where if Dicken’s Oliver Twist had been a City fan even he would have had enough.