Over 600 saw Town edge the 198th meeting of these two North East promotion-chasers and take second place thanks to Adam Gell’s dramatic chip from the centre circle.
Blues boss Chris Hardy kept an unchanged side despite a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Matlock Town, nine days earlier. While Blyth arrived at the Turnbull Ground with four wins from their last five meetings with the Seasiders and leading Town on goal difference, in third spot.
The Northumberland club started strongly, with a swirling wind in their favour and Robbie Dale’s floated free-kick was nodded down by ex-Blue Richard Pell for Dan Maguire to bicycle kick narrowly over the crossbar.
Despite having to weather that early pressure, the hosts led inside 15 minutes when Luke Bythway flicked on Callum Martin’s inswinging corner from the left, for Matty Tymon to just about turn home on the goal-line.
Dale then fired straight at Shane Bland from 20 yards before the visitors were handed a route back into the match, on 26 minutes. Luke Armstrong cut in from the left flank, ran at Andrew May who hung out a right leg, just inside the box, for Armstrong to go flying over. Referee Chris Ellis had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, but Matty Pattison saw his subsequent spot kick well held low to his left by Bland, the Blues gloveman’s third penalty save of the month.
Attacking left-back Michael Liddle then unleashed a swerving effort from just outside the area that Bland fended away, with Liddle hammering the rebound high and wide.
Early in the second half, Bland pushed away Pell’s 18-yard header, at the foot of his right-hand post, while at the other end, Dale Hopson scuffed low at Blyth keeper Paul Woolston, after a lightning break. On the hour, excellent interplay saw Steven Snaith exchange passes with Tymon, who saw his shot charged down with Gell lashing the resulting loose ball well off target.
Dave McTiernan will then think he should have done better after nodding across the face of goal and wide, at the back post, from Bythway’s pinpoint left-wing cross. However, Whitby did double their advantage, two minutes later. Hopson released Tymon with a lovely outside of the foot ball, Woolston won the race on the edge of his box, only to clear straight to Gell. The defensive midfielder then returned the ball 40 yards at least, from the edge of the centre circle, just inside the Blyth half, finding the empty net to the delight of much of the Turnbull crowd. Five minutes later, however, it was game on again as Armstrong squeezed the ball in, after beating Mark Robinson on the right byline, via the legs of Bland, for 2-1.
Former Middlesbrough striker Alun Armstrong, now in charge of Spartans, threw on FA Cup hero Jarrett Rivers, whose goal helped knock out Hartlepool United, for Blyth, in December 2014, and Damen Mullen, in place of Pattison and big Sean Reid. The Blues were unquestionably nervy after conceding late goals in two of their last three outings but worked hard at the back, battling well to keep out their old rivals and go ahead 43 wins to 42 in all-time meetings.
As Buxton lost out at Derbyshire neighbours Matlock, Whitby returned to second place in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier going into Thursday and Friday’s games. The Seasiders are next in action on Bank Holiday Monday 2nd January when fellow Yorkshire side Frickley are their hosts.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Shane Bland- Another crucial spot kick save in a brave performance against big, strong aerial opposition, aided by a determined team ahead of him.
Match Sponsor: SG Petch, Skippers Lane, Middlesbrough
Matchball Sponsor: Northcliffe Holiday Park, High Hawsker
Yorkshire Coast Radio, mascot: Joseph Sweeney (6)
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, May, Bythway, Robinson, Gell, Hopson (Roberts 84), Snaith, Tymon, McTiernan. Subs not used: Weledji, Dixon (GK), Fryatt, Hume.
Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Atkinson, Liddle, Reid (Mullen 70), Hutchinson, Pell, Pattison (Rivers 70), Turnbull, Maguire, Armstrong, Dale. Subs not used: Bell, Cartwright, Buddle.