Much-fancied Spennymoor ended the Blues’ nine-match unbeaten run and FA Cup interest in a closely-fought North East NPL derby, on Saturday.
More than 600 supporters descended on the Moors’ Brewery Field ground with Whitby manager Chris Hardy picking the same starting eleven for the sixth successive game.
After a quiet opening, the Seasiders had to be alert, on 18 minutes, when Kallum Griffiths’ deep right cross was nodded goalwards by big Glen Taylor, but Callum Martin was on hand to clear off the Whitby goal line. Soon after, Shane Bland caught the towering James Curtis’ header.
At the other end, Dan McWilliams crossed, from the left, for ex-Spenny marksman Mikey Roberts to half volley across goal and wide, from an acute angle.
That was it until the second half, with the hosts, tipped by many for promotion due to their impressive summer signings, after getting up through the play-offs, shading the first period. However, they very nearly found themselves behind, within seconds of the restart. It was Roberts who broke at pace, timing his run to perfection after a string of early offsides, only for goalkeeper Dan Lowson to block one on one with his legs. Roberts hooked another effort wide from the edge of the box before hosts’ tall frontman, Taylor, slammed a powerful low effort, from similar range, past Bland’s left-hand post.
Some may see McWilliams’ withdrawal through injury as a turning point- Curtis Round an attacking replacement, on 56 minutes. But the visitors remained dangerous with Whitby’s Taylor-equivalent, Matty Tymon, forcing Lowson to touch around his right-hand post with an awkward effort on the turn. Just after the hour, ex-Blue Shane Henry replaced Andrew Johnson on the left wing and seconds after, the combative Taylor came close again when he couldn’t generate enough power, while on the ground, to slide past Bland, who smothered the ball. But Taylor wasn’t to be denied on 68 minutes. Skipper Chris Mason, delivered an inviting far-post, left-wing ball which saw Taylor hold off the previously-impressive Andy May before placing low between Bland and his right-hand post.
Moors boss Jason Ainsley swapped former Darlington striker David Dowson with another ex-Quaker forward, Nathan Fisher, with 20 minutes left, while Hardy again replaced Roberts with midfielder Dave McTiernan, ten minutes from time, as Steven Snaith and Dale Hopson were pushed up the field. The long-serving McTiernan directed a Martin cross wide, but the Blues’ golden chance arrived, with three minutes remaining. Solid centre-half Joe Tait sliced a high clearance back towards his own goal where Tymon’s jump caused Lowson to drop the ball and Snaith’s quickfire follow-up was charged down inside the six yard box.
Another Whitby old boy, Graeme Armstrong came on for fellow frontman Taylor in the last minute but by then the game was up for Hardy’s boys, who gave everything to get around the determined Tait and beanpole aerial expert Curtis, assisted by busy midfield ace Jamie Chandler.
Spennymoor Town: Lowson, Griffiths, Mason (c), Gott, Tait, Curtis, Chandler, Johnson (Henry 63), Taylor (Armstrong 90), Dowson (Fisher 70), Anderson. Subs not used: Swain, Watson, Craddock, Rafferty (GK).
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams (Round 56), Weledji, Bythway, May, Gell, Hopson, Roberts (McTiernan 80), Tymon, Snaith (c). Subs not used: Robinson, Park, Hume, Bullock, Dawson (GK).