By Andrew Snaith
Dale Hopson’s second half spot kick was enough to drag Whitby over the line in a first home match of the season that they dominated for long periods, on a blustery Regatta Saturday.
With defender Mark Robinson unavailable for four games, centre-half Jamie Poole came in for the Blues’ vice captain as the only change from the previous weekend’s 1-1 draw at Sutton Coldfield.
As they did in the West Midlands seven days earlier, Blues started strongly and after Corby’s Femi Orenuga scuffed wide of Shane Bland’s right-hand post, the hosts created three good chances in four minutes. First, skipper Steven Snaith came agonisingly close on 13 minutes, after exchanging passes with Hopson and rattling the crossbar from 20 yards. Moments later, Mikey Roberts cut in off the left flank and sent in a low drive that was deflected inches wide off the leg of Brad-Lee Gascoigne, then Callum Martin’s right-wing cross was headed down and goalwards by Matty Tymon, but goalkeeper Aidan Grant clutched comfortably.
Playing with a swirling wind, Chris Hardy’s men weren’t shy to try their luck from distance. Kieran Weledji, a central defender who loves to get forward, powered a 30-yard effort narrowly over the top, while Hopson’s shot from slightly closer in, was held by Grant. A third strike on goal in as many minutes saw Roberts nod wide from Tymon’s cross.
Nine minutes from half-time, Martin came close with a half-volley from the right-edge of the Corby box, following a nice passing move, before the Northamptonshire visitors presumably had the rollocking of their lives from manager Tommy Wright.
Callum Ball hammered high over the crossbar following a soft-looking 20-yard free-kick award and Orenuga scuffed wide from the edge of the Blues box, in the last five minutes of the first half, but it was generally poor from the Steelmen.
Kurtis Kevan replaced the lively Orenuga, who suffered an injury relapse and almost crafted the opener for the visitors, curling over from the edge of the box, after dispossessing Weledji, then later testing Bland with a skidding 18-yard effort that the ex-Middlesbrough keeper did well to get behind. The pony-tailed Ben Miles had seen his follow-up from a left-wing corner, diverted just wide and Ball sliced well off target from 20 yards, as Corby pressed in the opening five minutes of the second half.
Snaith came close from 16 yards, for Whitby, who should have led on 56 minutes. It was determined work from Hopson which culminated in a pull back for Tymon to turn over from six yards. Seconds later, Hopson tried a rising shot himself, when 20 yards out, which Grant held. Then on the hour, most would bet their house on leading scorer Roberts breaking the deadlock, one on one with Grant, following Snaith’s lovely through ball, but the Blues’ number nine, slid inches wide.
As the Turnbull buzzed with excitement as home pressure increased, Snaith turned narrowly past Grant’s right-hand post, off balance, from 12 yards and Tymon headed straight at the gloveman after meeting Hopson’s neat diagonal dink into a crowded penalty area, from the left-edge.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 72 minutes. It was Tymon who went down as he got the wrong side of big O’Neill Odofin at the back post and referee Helen Conley paused a moment before pointing to the penalty spot. It was Hopson who then stepped up to send Grant the wrong way from 12 yards, unimpressed by the towering stopper’s easy pushing up of the crossbar, as he slotted into the bottom-left corner.
Ten minutes from time, just like at Sutton, Hardy replaced Roberts with Curtis Round, who dropped in behind Tymon. But it was the visitors who had one last chance to mimic Sutton and steal a late point. With 81 minutes on the clock, Weledji headed Kevan’s testing right-wing cross out of the home six-yard box, only for Miles to follow up and curl against the Blues bar from 18 yards.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, Weledji, Poole, May, Gell, Hopson, Roberts (Round 80), Tymon, Snaith (c). Subs not used: Park, Dawson (GK), Hume, Jewson.
Corby Town: Grant, Kennedy, Marshall (Draper 70), Anton (c), Gascoigne, Odofin, Orenuga (Kevan 46), Webb, Ball, Miles, Taylor (Johnson 72). Subs ot used: Parks (GK), Ogilvie.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Dale Hopson
Yorkshire Coast Radio Mascot: Josh Kaye