By Andrew Snaith
For the second successive week, Whitby threw away a half-time lead, this time to rivals Stourbridge, who climb to second.
However, the Seasiders couldn’t have made a better start as Adam Gell was bundled over on the edge of the D and top scorer Dale Hopson fired the resulting free-kick into the bottom right corner of the visitors’ net.
The Blues had gone back to a 4-4-2, for the first time since boss Chris Hardy’s first game in charge, last season, as striker Mikey Roberts returned from a loan spell at Guisborough and evergreen defender Mark Robinson missed out.
Midway through the first half, Hopson threatened again, curling over keeper Matthew Gould, but also the crossbar, after more good work from Gell. At the other end, Luke Bythway bravely blocked Luke Benbow’s snapshot and Leon Broadhurst fired hard and low but straight at Shane Bland.
The Seasiders then had two great chances to stretch their lead, seconds before the break. First Matty Tymon got the ball stuck under his feet and could only shovel straight at Gould, after a neat Roberts lay-off. The tall ex-Workington forward then threatened again, making a real nuisance of himself as Daryl Westlake cushioned back to keeper Gould and Tymon slid in as solid centre-half Stuart Pierpoint tried to shadow the gloveman, the ball went loose and Dan Preston finally cleared hurriedly.
Seconds before half-time, Hopson squeezed goalwards, after finding space on the left side of the penalty area, through two defenders, only for Pierpoint to clear off the line.
The Glassboys, who reached the third round proper of this season’s FA Cup, began the second period stronger with the wind advantage and had a goal disallowed, for offside, against Benbow, after he slid in Chris Knight’s lovely left-wing cross, at the back post.
Benbow brought a good Bland save from the edge of the box before Tom Tonks’ freakish long throw bounced nicely for Benbow, to divert past Bland with his back to goal, via the outside of his left boot, from six yards. However, Whitby could have retaken the lead, on the hour, when Westlake’s blind backpass played in Roberts, only for Gould to slide in at the number nine’s feet as he tried to round him, claiming the ball.
Benbow then squandered a free-kick from a similar position to Hopson’s opener, the kick lacking power as Bland clutched. The 22-year-old stopper did likewise as one of the league’s top marksmen tried his luck again, before parrying high to his left from Kayleden Brown. Bland then did well again, punching clear at his near post from Pierpoint’s header, after Benbow turned provider with a deep right-wing cross.
Eventually, as the men in white continued to turn the screw and go increasingly direct, an inswinging left-wing Tonks corner then swung the pendulum toward the West Midlands outfit. Tonks’ delivery glanced off Bythway’s head looped in the air and somehow dropped into the home net, 16 minutes from time.
Skipper Tonks was employing a steepling long throw to great effect in the wind, while from open play Benbow forced Bland to push away from that same top-left corner, at full stretch and Gell sliced wide a great chance from the edge of the box, for Whitby.
Finally the visitors won it with an emphatic third, when Jones took aim and smashed into the top-left corner, from just inside the right-edge of the box, eleven minutes from time. Hardy threw on the pacey Kyle Fryatt in a straight swap up front for Roberts, but there was to be no comeback as the two teams lurched in different directions amid a congested top-half of the Evo-Stik Premier.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Steven Snaith- Good box-to-box display, especially first half.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWiliams, May, Bythway, Gell, Snaith (c), Hopson, Roberts (Fryatt 82), Tymon, Carson. Subs not used: Robinson, Dixon (GK), Hume, Weledji.
Stourbridge: Gould, Knight, Westlake, Tonks (c), Preston, Pierpoint (Green 77), Jones, Broadhurst, Benbow, Birch, Brown (Westwood 86). Subs not used: Sho-Silva.
Match Sponsor: Graeme Hinchliffe Associates, Sheffield
Matchball Sponsor: Abbey Taxis, Whitby