Whitby Town 1-0 Marine
Endeavour and adventure not enough as Mariners' voyage of discovery ends in defeat...
Marine's seven game unbeaten run ended at the Turnbull Ground as Dale Hopson's 58th minute winner secured all three points for relegation-threatened Whitby Town. Manager Sean Hessey brought in James Short for James Foley, whilst Charlie Barnett replaced the injured Sean Myler.
The Seasiders, bidding to escape the EvoStik Premier Division relegation places, began brightly and Matt Cooper was called into action to prevent the home side taking an early lead. Blues' striker Roberts wriggled through the heart of the Marine rearguard but Cooper raced out to block smartly with his feet and the Yellows were able to clear.
The Crosby side began to impose their passing game on the homesters and Chris Sharp from the right and Short from the left both sent in teasing low crosses which Danny Mitchley narrowly failed to get on the end of.
Despite heavy rain having fallen throughout the morning the Turnbull ground surface held up remarkably well throughout the afternoon, although the heavy conditions did test both team's fitness.
The greasy turf almost contributed to catastrophe for Cooper midway through the half as the salmon-shirted stopper raced to the edge of his area to claim a through ball from the Town midfield. Cooper's slide was deemed to have carried him outside of the box with ball in hand, however referee Peart merely cautioned the 'keeper to the relief of the travelling faithful. McWilliams' subsequent free-kick failed to threaten, the ball sailing harmlessly over the crossbar.
On the half-hour mark the Mariners created their best opportunity opening period as Sharp's low centre reached Mitchley. The hotshot's side-footed effort forced burgundy-bedecked custodian Bland into a top-drawer save as the 'keeper, despite being wrong-footed, somehow laid glove on ball as it was destined for the corner of the rigging and the home defence were able to scramble clear.
The Mariners continued to press and Barnett's corner from their left found Liam Willis leaping highest at the back-post, the young centre-back directing his header back across goal but also wide of Bland's right-hand post.
Mitchley fired a rising drive a yard over the angle of post and crossbar in the last meaningful action of an evenly-contested first half, with the opening goal looking increasingly likely to decide the outcome.
Hessey's troops began the second period as they had ended the first, and following a free-kick Short kept the ball in on the left byline before centring to the feet of skipper Andy Nicholas, the former Swindon left-back taking a touch but seeing his goalbound shot blocked by a Town defender. The rebound fell for the onrushing Barnett whose drive from 15 yards received the merest touch from Bland to divert it over the bar.
Alan Burton's neat header then allowed Lewis Codling to advance down the Marine right, Codling's cut-back finding Sharp who crashed a first-time shot against the Whitby crossbar from 12 yards out as the Mariners' frustration continued. The Yellows' next attack saw Codling's well-struck drive from the corner of the box held securely by Bland.
Whitby responded by creating their first chance of the half and taking it, as a ball played down the Town left was laid into the path of Hopson. The midfielder's choice was to cut inside before curling a fine finish past Cooper's despairing dive and inside his left-hand post from 20 yards to give the Blues a crucial lead.
The Yellows' next attack saw Sharp lose possession tamely before pulling back a Whitby defender, but as the free-kick was being awarded Roberts caught Liam Goulding with a late, shin-high lunge which left the young defender prostrate. Referee Peart had to calm the rightly-incensed Marine players and bench before rather strangely issuing the same punishment for Sharp's petulant tug of a shirt and Roberts' dangerous challenge, both players being cautioned for their respective offences.
Andy Owens and Chad Whyte were introduced in place of Codling and Short as Hessey's men sought an equalising goal and both substitutes were involved as the Yellows came close once again with ten minutes remaining. Whyte's goalbound shot was charged down by a blue-shirted defender with Owens retaining possession from the rebound, the former Telford striker seeing his low left-footed drive blocked by an outstretched Whitby leg to deny Owens his fourth goal in five appearances from the bench in recent weeks.
As the game entered five minutes of added time Whitby had a glorious opportunity to secure victory as a ball over the top allowed substitute Waters to run deep into the Marine half, the Blues' forward rounding the advancing Cooper before squaring to present the unmarked Weledji with an open goal to walk the ball into. However the hapless Whitby man miscontrolled with the goal gaping, Scarth arriving at the back-post to seemingly spare the right-back's blushes but being denied by a tremendous parry by the recovering Cooper.
The Yellows looked to capitalise on their fortune and rescue a point, but again found Bland in their way, the 'keeper parrying a Nicholas volley to safety following a Barnett corner.
In the final minute controversy reigned once more as Barnett's right-wing cross appeared to striker the a Whitby arm inside their penalty area, the well-placed Assistant indicating that the ball had struck the defender's torso to leave the players and supporters from Crosby frustrated yet again.
Whitby held out for a much-needed win which sees them climb out of the relegation places, recording their fifth clean sheet in seven games in the process, whilst the Mariners were left to rue a combination of missed opportunities and excellent goalkeeping on the day.
The Mariners host in-form Frickley Athletic on Tuesday evening at the Marine Travel Arena, kick off is at 7:45pm.
Marine: Matt Cooper, Alex Davies, Andy Nicholas (c), Liam Goulding, Alan Burton, Liam Willis, Lewis Codling (Chad Whyte 79), Charlie Barnett, Danny Mitchley, Chris Sharp, James Short (Andy Owens 60).
Unused subs: James Foley, Warren Bellew, Jack Hunter. Cautions: Cooper, Goulding, Willis, Sharp.
Whitby Town: Shane Bland, Kieran Weledji, Mark Robinson (c), Richard Pell, Jamie Poole, David McTiernan, Adam Gell, Dale Hopson, Michael Roberts (Tyler Scarth 88), Anthony Hume (Matthew Waters 73), Andrew McWilliams.
Unused subs: Connor Gardner, Scott Howes, Daniel Dixon. Cautions: Roberts, McTiernan.
Goals: Whitby Town; Hopson (58)
Referee: Mr Tony Peart
Assistants: Mr Daniel McGinley and Mr Benjamin Stones