Chris Hardy’s men battled out a hard-fought draw with fellow play-off chasers Rushall Olympic, who were good value for a point, at the Turnbull Ground, on Saturday.
Hardy was without versatile centre-half Luke Bythway, due to work commitments, so assistant boss Lee Bullock came in for a first league start of the season. The Pics began better and threatened on eight minutes when overlapping right-back Mickael Partodikromo cut inside and sent a rising, central effort narrowly over the top, from just outside the box. Within five minutes, George Bowerman, who scored the winner for former club Halesowen, against the Seasiders, in January, forced a good low parry, around his right-hand post, from Shane Bland.
The lively number nine went clear again and should’ve broken the deadlock, soon after, but Bowerman sliced well wide, when one-on-one with Bland, from ten yards. Whitby almost struck themselves, Town showing for the first time on 28 minutes, when Dale Hopson’s inventive, scooped 20-yard free-kick was turned inches wide by Matty Tymon.
Bowerman threatened again, eleven minutes before half time, when he brought a parry with his right leg by Bland then a brave punch clear as the keeper collided with team-mate Callum Martin, before Mikey Roberts came close, twice in two minutes, at the end of the half. First a tame shot was held by 40-year-old former Cape Verde international goalkeeper Jose Veiga, then another try, off-balance, from an acute angle, on the left, six-yards out, was pulled agonisingly across the face.
Just after the hour, Bowerman turned provider, pulling back for skipper Aron Forde to somehow poke wide point-blank. The two goals came within five minutes of each other, midway through the second half. First, Roberts’ scuffed close range shot was parried by Veiga at the foot of his right-hand post, only for Hopson to sneak in and slot home the loose ball. Substitute Gurjit Singh, who’d only been on the field three minutes, was denied by Bland after latching onto Bullock’s short header back, but the West Midlanders were back on terms when Craig Bannister nodded home Partodikromo’s pinpoint right-wing cross, completely unmarked, six yards out.
Steven Snaith, alongside opposing skipper Forde, was on a last warning, as two of eight bookings, but the Blues’ captain almost won it for his side, 14 minutes from time, only to clip Veiga’s right-hand post with a curling 16-yard effort, on the turn, out of nothing.
Finally, Roberts came agonisingly close to being the match-winner for the second clash in a row, a minute from time. Hopson crossed invitingly, to the back post, from the left flank, for Tymon to rise and Roberts to leap even higher, behind him, heading down towards the opposite corner, only for Veiga to tip wide, low to his right.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Adam Gell- Aided by Snaith, he gave a typically-composed display in front of the Blues’ back four.
Match Sponsor: The Ellerby Country Hotel, Ellerby
Matchball Sponsor: Mike Weatherill, Stonemason, Danby
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, May, Bullock, Gell, Snaith (c), Hopson, Roberts, Tymon, Carson. Subs not used: Robinson, Dixon (GK), Fryatt, Hume, Weledji.
Rushall Olympic: Veiga, Partodikromo (Bottomer 81), Whittall, Forde (c), Hull, Eze, Christophorou, Smikle, Bowerman (Singh 65), Bannister (Luckie 77), Cooper. Subs not used: Mugisha, Jackson.