Whitley Bay vs South Shields
4 October 2014
Whitley Bay 4 South Shields 3
FA Vase, 2nd Qualifying Round
Attendance: 319

Whitley Bay Football Club was first founded as Monkseaton FC in 1897 but did not move to its current home at Hillheads Park until 1939 when the ground was first opened, albeit in quite a different form to what it is today. In those early days of Hillheads timber huts were erected as changing and Committee rooms, and two small stands were erected on either side of the ground.

In 1950 the club changed its name to Whitley Bay Athletic and joined the Northern Alliance League, completing a League and League Cup double in 1951-52. If that wasn’t enough they also lifted the Northumberland Senior Cup, beating North Shields 3-0 at St. James’s Park in front of a crowd of over 17,000 and becoming the first amateur side to win the trophy for over sixty years. North Shields got their revenge the following season, but the Bay retained the League-Cup double.

In 1955-56 the club took a huge step in class by joining the North Eastern League, a move that proved to be disastrous. In 1958-59 they applied to join the Northern League, and also dropped ‘Athletic’ from the club name.

In wasn’t until 1963 that the present Hillheads began to take shape. The old timber changing rooms were demolished and replaced; and the current stand was constructed on the Ice Rink side of the ground, with voluntary labour supplied by players and supporters, despite a temporary halt when a mass grave (which turned out to be horses’ bones) was uncovered!

In 1964-65 Whitley Bay once again completed a treble of the Northern League, League Cup, and Northumberland Senior Cup. The ground record of 7,301 was also set in the FA Amateur Cup with a QF tie vs. Hendon. The following season retained the League title, and also became the first Northumberland club to reach the SF of the Amateur Cup. Once again the opponents were Hendon, although this time the tie was played at Roker Park, where 18,000 turned out to see the Bay narrowly lose1-2. In 1966 the Seahorse Social Club was opened at Hillheads, and two years later floodlights were inaugurated with a friendly vs. Newcastle United. In 1969 they were Amateur Cup semi-finalists again, this time losing to Sutton United at Birmingham City’s St. Andrews ground.

Fast forward to 1988 and Whitley Bay joined the Northern Premier League, winning promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 1990-91 season, where they spent four seasons before being relegated. A further relegation back to the Northern League followed in 2000, which saw them eligible to enter the FA Vase for the first time. By this time the original wooden stand on the Creamery side of Hillheads had also been demolished but only replaced with a new cover in recent years.

It didn’t take the Bay to make their mark on the Vase, lifting the trophy for the first time in 2002, after beating Tiptree United in the Final at Villa Park. The Northern League title followed in 2006-07 but of course it was the club’s record record in the Vase that prompted me to visit Hillheads for this 2nd Qualifying Round tie vs. South Shields.

In 2007-08 they had lost 3-4 on aggregate in the SF to Lowestoft, having crashed 0-4 in Suffolk and just failing to claw back the deficit in the return leg. Revenge however was gained at the same stage of the competition the following season, and a 2-0 victory over Glossop North End at Wembley had seen them lift the trophy for a second time. Even more remarkable was the following two seasons: with wins against Wroxham (6-1) and Coalville Town (3-2) for a record-breaking hat-trick and four wins in total.

Today’s tie was the first time the Bay had actually played a 2nd Qualifying Round tie since 2006 by virtue of their recent record. Visitors South Shields had once graced the Football League from 1919-30 but now found themselves in Division 2 of the Northern League, one step below Whitley Bay. They had already seen off Willington in the previous round, and had made a reasonable start in the League.

Despite always being ahead in the tie, the Bay conspired to make things hard for themselves and were made to fight all the way by a plucky South Shields side, managed by two former Whitley Bay players Jon King and Lee Bell. Indeed the Mariners’ Paul Kane could consider himself very unfortunate to net a hat-trick and still end up on the losing side. Goals from Robbie Bird (2), Paul Chow, and Paul Robinson were ultimately just enough for the Bay to progress through to the 1st Round and a tough-looking tie at Bedlington Terriers.

A full match report is available at www.whitleybayfc.com/reports/report.asp?ID=219&DB=1415

Historical detail in part courtesy of ‘The Whitley Bay FC Story 1950-2010’ by Lynn Bone.

Further information from ‘The History of Non-League Football Grounds’ by Kerry Miller
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