By Andrew Snaith
A frenetic first half yielded four goals in a topsy turvy encounter between Northern League promotion chasers and a work-in-progress Town side.
Chris Hardy made three changes to the Whitby side that saw off Marske 2-0, in midweek. Andrew May, who looks increasingly like another joining from Hardy’s old club, Guisborough Town, returned, as Town reverted to 5-3-2. Mikey Roberts replaced Jordan Jewson up front with Dale Hopson taking Dave McTiernan’s midfield berth and captain’s armband.
It was the visitors, in their new illuminous green away kit, who lit the way to goal, inside two minutes. A simple ball down the middle saw Sam Orritt get in ahead of Blues keeper Shane Bland, on the edge of the D, before slotting home. The match settled into a rhythm and Town began to claw their way back in. The hosts eventually levelled on 18 minutes as Roberts’ persistence saw him snatch possession in the Bishops’ box, before turning beautifully and placing calm and low between goalkeeper Scott Pocklington and his left, near post. Within two minutes, more Roberts industry and skill, this time down the left flank, saw the ball fired across goal and inches away from Cameron Park, arriving at the back post. It wasn’t long, though, before the Seasiders turned the match on its head and led. Just before the half hour, Dan McWilliams took a short corner, from the right, which Roberts floated to the near post and Kieran Weledji executed the perfect downward header to dissect Pocklington and his far post.Adam Gell’s backpass almost played Bland into trouble, with the gloveman’s hurried clearance dropping wide off marksman Priestley Griffiths. Seconds later and that man Roberts was at it again. This time it was a solo run all of his own, as he brought a strong save from Pocklington at his near post after driving down the right and narrowly beating the offside flag.
Despite Whitby pressure, however, it was the visitors who struck next, with a fortunate penalty, ten minutes before half time. As the Blues battled to clear on the left-edge of their penalty area, Steven Snaith slid in and the ball cannoned off his outstretched arm. There seemed no attempt to handle and many believed the Town number eight was outside the box when contact was made, but nevertheless, referee Chris Keightley pointed to the spot. Griffiths strode up and comfortably sidefooted into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards.
Whitby made more chances moments before half time. First, Roberts crossed from the lreft for Gell to chest down but Pocklington to expertly close the angle and block wide. The resulting inswinging, right-wing McWilliams corner was then deflected wide by May.
Hardy made a double change at the interval. Having seen a great showing from an in-form Roberts, Matty Tymon got a go up front in the number nine’s stead, while right-wing back Callum Martin made way for Jewson as Town re-jigged to 4-3-3.
Despite the attacking additions, second half action was mostly confined to the dugout as both sides shuffled their packs and chances were at a premium. Midway through, Bland again made way for young stopper James Dawson, in what remains a genuine battle from the Blues’ number one shirt.
On 69 minutes, Park fired over from a left-wing corner before Dawson was almost caught out in identical fashion to his predecessor, as sub John Jury rounded the gloveman, but was charged down by covering defenders before he could bear down on goal.
Six minutes from time, Weledji- who looked very much at home as a driving right-back after half-time- ran onto Gell’s long ball. After Tymon’s nicely-judged dummy, the ex-Middlesbrough youngster continued his run and brought a strong parry, low to his right, from Pocklington, after unleashing a dangerous angled drive, from the right-edge of the box.
A minute before the end, Town had one last opportunity. Some terrific build up play down the left finally culminated in Hopson’s left-wing byline cross glancing off Tymon’s head, amid the lanky striker’s far-post jump.
Whitby Town: Bland (Dawson 68), Martin (Jewson 46), McWilliams, Weledji, Robinson, May, Gell, Snaith, Roberts (Tymon 46), Hopson (c), Park. Subs not used: Scarth, Hume, Bullock, Organ-Simpson.
Bishop Auckland: Pocklington, Thompson (Jury 66), Hoganson, Griffiths, Colquhoun (McEvoy 78), Williamson, Bennett (Martindale 66), Orritt, Purewal (Moore 66), Martin, Smith.
Mascot: Michael Stubbs (67) of Australia.
Mascot Sponsor: Yorkshire Coast Radio