West Auckland’s 2017/18 home campaign was ended similar to as it started, a comfortable victory and clean sheet.
The season began with a 9 goal victory over Guisborough, and whilst fans would have to be content with 5 this time against Whitley Bay, it still underlined West’s attacking prowess as well as solid defending.
The second half of the season has seen more consistency and bodes well for next season whilst West can guarantee an impressive 3rd placed finish in Gary Forrest’s first season in charge, should they win at Ryhope on Monday night.
On Saturday, a youthful and stretched Whitley Bay side were, in best part, second best despite battling throughout against a strong Auckland side, who overcame the 6th minute blow of losing Adam Mitchell to a hamstring injury. His replacement, Mark Doninger, starred by netting twice with Dan Parker, Amar Purewal and Anthony Bell also finding the target.
Both sides had early spells of pressure, West first, with Mitchell the closest, then Bay who were denied a shot at goal by a last ditch tackle from Denver Morris on the cover.
However once West took the lead the never looked back. It arrived in the 20th minute when Bell floated in a free kick to Doninger and the midfielder powerfully headed into the corner of the net.
Bell was denied by a smart save a couple of minutes before Thomas Flynn could only watch as Doninger’s delicious chip over him went inches wide of the mark.
Doninger and Bell both went close again before the second goal finally arrived in the 32nd minute. Lewis Dodds headed a corner back across goal, Nathan Fisher’s goal bound effort was well saved the keeper, only for Dan Parker to be on hand to turn home the rebound.
Fisher could have scored his 43rd League goal in the 43rd minute when he latched onto Doninger’s through ball, seeing off a challenge but ultimately denied when one on one by Flynn.
The second half saw now let up from West and in particular Doninger, who saw an early free kick parried to safety. Any hopes of a comeback from the visitors were dashed in the 47th minute when Jamie Cobain’s run and low cross was turned home by Purewal. Bell then hit the side netting as West piled forward sensing further goals.
In early December, West staged a remarkable fightback to beat Whitley Bay 4-3 in the FA Vase but, with the Seasiders struggling of late, this tie was much less dramatic. Forrest’s men moved four ahead in the 51st minute, Fisher nicking the ball past first defender then keeper before unselfishly teeing up Doninger who waited for the covering defenders to commit before stroking home his second.
At the other end, Cobain made a superb glancing header away for a corner as the Bay forward seemed destined to pull one back then former West fullback Jack Walker fired past the post. West meanwhile had further efforts with Doninger and Fisher off target and Flynn denying Morris.
West completed the scoring with a fifth in the 82nd minute, a quick break from subs Doninger and Wearmouth, with the former setting up Bell to send the keeper the wrong way, side footing it into the far corner.
There was still time for Bay to strike to woodwork when Michael Bell’s half volley bounced off the post and Scott Jasper unable to turn in the rebound thanks to Ross Colquhoun’s block. The last attack came from Doninger, who went close to a hat trick with a good run and curling effort that was held by Flynn.
Team: Bland, Morris (Fortune 80′), Colquhoun, Cobain, Parker, Bell, McKeown, Mitchell (Doninger 6′), Fisher, Dodds, Purewal (Wearmouth 60′)
Goals: Doninger (20′, 51′), Parker (32′), Purewal (47′), Bell (82′)