By Andrew Snaith
The Blues suffered a third successive pre-season defeat, failed to return the Mickey Skinner Trophy from their local rivals and most importantly, lost defender Ben Askins to serious injury, on Saturday.
Askins, who was still recovering and being used sparingly by boss Chris Hardy, pulled up in the warm-up with what appeared to be a ligament tear to his left hamstring, though later checks seemed to suggest a less-serious injury. However, the young centre half, who only just signed from Doncaster Rovers, over the summer, faces months of the sideline.
But the early blow didn’t seem to affect the visitors, as they set about their Northern League opponents, at the King George V ground. Dan McWilliams and Kieran Weledji both came close inside five minutes before Mikey Roberts, like McWiliams, one of many ex-Guisborough players in Whitby blue, delivered an awkward driven right-wing ball that Weledji headed into the far-post side netting.
At the other end, Town had to defend stoutly as the lively Connor Smith broke, on ten minutes, forcing a brave sliding block- Martin Thackery then had to react well to tip over McWilliams’ testing drive.
Guisborough, who again finished third in the Northern League’s top tier, last term, improved as the half wore on with Smith again sprinting away, only to be halted by Weledji’s slide. Midway through the first period, Paul Roddam, who spent time at Whitby at the end of last season, cut in off the right and sent an 18-yard snapshot inches over the bar. With so many players having featured for both clubs, it had to be a Whitby old boy who broke the deadlock for the hosts, just after the half hour. Smith again caused problems as Shane Bland could only fend away his straight drive and there was Thibault Charmey to smartly fire into the ground, low between Bland and his right-hand post. The Frenchman almost doubled the Priorymens’ advantage, two minutes before half-time, only for Bland to block at the foot of his other post.
Steve Dowling’s men started the second half strongly with Jamie Poole forced to nod off his own goal-line after Gary Wood’s free-kick was headed back across goal, at the far post and Wood then sent a ferocious 25-yarder narrowly high and wide. On the hour, Roberts sliced well wide when well placed, at Thackery’s right-hand post, before Whitby had a penalty as another ex-Guisborough forward, Steven Snaith, went to ground. But Thackery wasn’t to be beaten as Roberts’ disappointing return continued, last season’s top scorer was denied by Thackery’s excellent save, low to his left.
Former Guisborough trio Bland, Roberts and Adam Gell made way for James Dawson, Elliot Anderson and Matty Tymon with the latter nodding straight at Thackery, from close range with his first touch.
Tymon sent a tame volley in the same direction before Dawson reacted well to stop Peter Bulmer’s free far-post header from Charmey’s right-wing cross. The tall striker had no more luck after the home side replaced their keeper, heading a right-wing cross straight at newcomer Adrian Beblowski, fifteen minutes from time. Seconds laster, Anderson miskicked in front of goal and Tymon’s follow up was blocked. As Whitby continued to laid siege, Dale Hopson’s drilled free-kick slammed into the advertising boards to Beblowski’s left.
Despite Whitby’s two division advantage, Guisborough lasted well and ended the match on top. With twelve minutes left, sub Robbie Bettson scuffed straight at Dawson from 20 yards and the same player saw an awkward shot slowed by Poole’s intervention at Dawson held low to his right. Ten minutes from time came the inevitable second for the men in red and white as sub Jordan Lee was left free from another right-wing ball to tuck past Dawson. The same player then kicked thin air, from point blank range, as Nathan Evans, an ex-Blue sent over a low ball from the right. As Guisborough kept plugging away on the same flank, another driven right-wing cross was backheeled neatly by Lee, but Dawson smothered well.
Guisborough Town: Thackery (Beblowski 70), Roddam (Helm 54), McPhillips, Carling (c), Galloway, Wood, Blake (Bettson 57, Farrington 84), Blythe (Cocks 57), Smith (Evans 78), Charmey (Snook 84), Bulmer (Lee 78).
Whitby Town: Bland (Dawson 64), Martin (Organ-Simpson 84), McWilliams, Weledji, Park, Poole, Gell (Anderson 64), Hopson, Roberts (Tymon 64), Snaith (Scarth 84), McTiernan.