In a terrific advertisement for Northern Premier League football, Whitby were denied at the death by the lively Marcus Dinanga as their December jinx continues.
The Seasiders drop to fourth in a tight top-half of the Evo-Stik NPL Premier, going into Christmas, despite leading with a first-half Adam Gell strike. It’s still huge improvement with last year’s festive table placing the Blues fourth from bottom.
Whitby boss Chris Hardy made two changes as midfielder Dave McTiernan and right wing-back Callum Martin replaced marksman Mikey Roberts and on-loan Connor Smith, who returned to parent club Hartlepool United, after four weeks with the Seasiders.
Whitby skipper Steven Snaith, pushed up front, forced Phil Barnes to parry early on with a powerful effort from distance. The Derbyshire hosts then had a purple patch as captain Joe Doyle-Charles forced Shane Bland to claw away from the top-right corner, on 19 minutes. Seconds later, Marc Newsham backheeled for Niall McManus to sidefoot wide from a glorious position. Bland then caught Newsham’s rising header. Jamie Yates powered inches over from distance before the Seasiders led on the half hour. Martin’s deep right-wing cross was cut back from the byline by Dale Hopson for Gell to turn home point-blank. Worse was to follow, for the hosts, as the pony-tailed Doyle-Charles limped off after losing a series of firm but fair 50-50s. Not one but two slides from the uncompromising Snaith was followed by treatment on the touchline, only for Doyle-Charles to then cop a tough tackle from vice captain Mark Robinson. Alex Pursehouse eventually replaced his team-mate in first-half injury time.
Early in the second period, Newsham came close with a downward header before the visitors could and should have sealed things, on the hour. Matty Tymon laid off from a great position, 12 yards out and McTiernan rounded Barnes, only for Nico Degirolamo to head off the goal-line.
The Seasiders did have the ball in the net, for a second time, on 69 minutes. Dan McWilliams’ curling free-kick was met with a diving Luke Bythway header for Snaith to turn in, only for the nodded assist to be flagged offside. Hardy chose to introduce pacey frontman/winger Kyle Fryatt for Gell, with Snaith moving into midfield, before five minutes later, Matlock had a strike chalked off themselves. The conquerors of holders Halifax and Conference National Solihull, in the FA Trophy, recently, were celebrating when Jamie Green forced home the rebound, after Bland parried from Degirolamo’s strong low drive, only for the linesman’s flag to again intervene. Within seconds, however, the scores were level. The lively Ted Cribley pulled back from the left and fellow substitute Pursehouse placed into the bottom-left corner from the right-edge of the penalty area.
With ten minutes left, Hopson sidefooted wide from the edge of the box. Bland then pushed away Mike Williams’ low effort from 18 yards, full-length to his right. However, the pressure continued as the Gladiators surged forward and neat interplay saw Dinanga find space and slot into the same bottom-left corner, for another heartbreaking late winner, Whitby having suffered the same fate, two weeks earlier, at leaders Rushall Olympic.
Other results broadly went in the Seasiders’ favour, though Rushall’s own late 2-1 win at Skelmersdale saw them extend their lead over Town to seven points, while Boxing Day opponents Blyth go to the Turnbull ahead of Whitby on goal difference, in third, after a 2-0 victory over Barwell.
Matlock Town: Barnes, Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles (c) (Pursehouse 43), Degirolamo, Wiley, McManus, Williams, Newsham (Grocott 90), Dinanga, Yates (Cribley 52). Subs not used: Warren.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, May, Bythway, Robinson, Gell (Fryatt 72), McTiernan, Snaith, Tymon, Hopson. Subs not used: Hume, Roberts, Weledji, Dixon (GK).