By Andrew Snaith
Manager Chris Hardy gave 21 players a good run out as Town lost by the odd goal to Northern League title favourites, South Shields, on Saturday.
Shields, who were led, in midfield, by former Middlesbrough and Sunderland star Julio Arca (35), defeated Scottish League Ayr United last week and beat the Blues with a first-half own goal, at the Turnbull Ground.
Hardy remained optimistic despite the result, telling whitby-town.com:
“The objective of Saturday’s game was to get the first pre-season [match] out of the way, first and foremost, to get the boys at a match tempo and I wanted everyone to get a minimum of 45 minutes.
“It was a first pre-season game type of performance- disjointed at times.
“I think Shields were a good test and looked as though they were 3-4 more games down the line.”, he added.
The Blues boss gave debuts to three of his former Guisborough charges in left wing-back Danny McWilliams, midfielder Curtis Round and centre-half Andrew May, who is reportedly close to signing. In addition, Steven Snaith, himself brought in from up the A171, returned to the Seasiders for a second spell, playing behind Matty Tymon, who’s also back, from Workington, for a third run in blue and white.
Shields, promoted from the Northern League Second Division just months ago, threatened first on seven minutes when Arca released ex-Hartlepool forward David Foley, who fired straight at keeper Shane Bland. More great interplay followed, just after the half hour, when only Bland’s legs denied Foley, just inside Town penalty area.
The pressure was building and on 33 minutes, Arca’s 25-yard free-kick was pushed away full length to his left by Bland using both hands, albeit at a good height. The resulting right-wing corner saw Arca trick his way along the byline and force Bland to block with his feet, at the near post. However, the third Shields set piece in succession proved the charm as Arca’s inswinging corner glanced off the top of Snaith’s head and flew into the net, as he and player-coach Lee Bullock contested the ball.
Jon Shaw, an impressive close-season capture from Conference National Gateshead, could only sidefoot tamely, low into Bland’s body, before a loud bang on the top of the main stand signalled the arrival of a cricket ball, despatched over mid-wicket from next-door, how Blues fans desired the same impact. As well as the aforementioned inter-sport issue, the second half saw an improvement from the hosts as Hardy made ten changes. Three players who impressed at the club’s recent open trial were introduced with ex-Pools keeper James Dawson joined by Whitby-based duo James Organ-Simpson and Elliot Anderson (16). Paul Welland, who spent time with Darlington, replaced McWilliams on the left.
Dawson looked very composed and saved well low to his left to deny Shaw midway through a much quieter second period. Whitby finally threatened late in the day as Adam Gell’s quickly-taken, diagonal, left-footed free-kick was narrowly missed by the head of an unmarked Dave McTiernan, arriving at keeper Joss Carmichael’s right-hand post.
Cameron Park then almost conjured up a late equaliser out of nothing. The bearded ex-Marske midfielder, who appeared briefly last season, spotted Carmichael inches off his line and tried a swerving half-volley that clipped the top of the bar, from 25 yards.
Hardy concluded: “A combination of first-teamers, squad players and trialists- trying to gel them as a collective, that leads to variables.
“I don’t want to scrutinise a performance that wasn’t where we would want it to be but ticked the box for the first pre-season [game].
“It’s still a work in progress, but without putting that in concrete, I am aiming to have the squad there or thereabouts by the 6th of August [the last friendly, at home to Scarborough].”
Whitby Town: Bland (Dawson 46), A Trialist (J Organ-Simpson 46), McWilliams (Welland 46), Bullock (Robinson 46), May (Weledji 46), Gell, Martin (Park 46), Round (McTiernan 46), Snaith (Anderson 46), Tymon (Roberts 46), Scarth (Hume 46).