A 92nd-minute volley denied Whitby a first-day victory on day one of the new Evo-Stik Premier League season, this past weekend.
Seasiders supremo Chris Hardy handed competitive debuts to left-wing-back Dan McWilliams and centre-half Andrew May, both summer signings from the manager’s old club, Guisborough Town. However, it was the forwards catching the eye early on as Whitby led inside seven minutes.
A neat move saw Dale Hopson force James Wren to parry point-blank, the ball was then collected by Mikey Roberts who crossed from the right byline for Hopson to slide home at the far post. Playing at former rivals Eastwood, due to Sutton’s own artificial surface failing FA regulations, Whitby remained on top and Roberts earned Joe Lyng a rollocking from manager Neil Tooth after turning the defender and firing a low, angled effort, across goal and wide.
Town’s top scorer repeated the dose, on 28 minutes, after going clear on his own, but finding himself at a tough angle. McWilliams then sent a 22-yard free-kick high over the crossbar.
The Royals finally showed five minutes before half time. They forced a string of corners with the sum total seeing a powerful effort blocked by Callum Martin’s thigh, on the edge of the six yard box. Ex-Shrewsbury marksman Luke Rodgers also saw a deflected effort drop inches wide.
After being forced back, before the break, Hardy’s men seemed to have relocated their mojo and Hopson powered against Wren from 20 yards, nine minutes into the second half.
Tooth then introduced a hat-trick of substitutes in the space of five minutes, however, Whitby would have doubled their advantage, in-between, but for Wren’s brilliance. With 67 minutes gone, Roberts supplied another brilliant byline ball that Tymon turned goalwards at the near post, only for the keeper to block with his knees.
Danny O’Callaghan, who stood out at number ten for the West Midlands side, fired a warning shot, on 75 minutes, with a 16-yard punt, on the turn, that flew just wide. Seconds later, a third debutant from Guisborough, lively playmaker Curtis Round, replaced Roberts and it should have been game over, nine minutes later. This time it was Hopson supplying the ammunition, from the left, for Tymon to head down at the far post and Wren to somehow push away, low to his right.
Hopson made way for Cameron Park, in stoppage time, with Whitby desperate to run down the clock. Surely with just three minutes signalled, they could withstand their now very direct opposition. A long ball was cleared, but only as far as O’Callaghan who executed the perfect first-time 20-yard volley to smash past Shane Bland and into the top-left corner of the net. Bland had previously been happy to catch and punch a series of crosses, but had little to no chance with a true piledriver to break Whitby hearts.
However, as good as O’Callaghan’s finish was, the biggest congratulation should go to keeper Wren, who after two similar showings against Town last season, again ensured his team would not be beaten.
For Whitby, sporting their new white away kit, it was another improved showing, with a disappointed Hardy praising an also-improving Tymon for his efforts and saluting his side for their quality, when on another day, they would surely have taken maximum points.
Sutton Coldfield Town: Wren, Ashmore, Jackson (c), Trainer (Palmer 68), Lyng, Rowley, Edmunds (Washbourne 63), McNaught, Rodgers, O’Callaghan, Vincent (Waite 65). Subs not used: Sterling, Smith.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, Weledji, Robinson, May, Gell, Hopson (Park 90), Roberts (Round 76), Tymon, Snaith (c). Subs not used: Bullock, Jewson, Dawson (GK).