The second-placed Seasiders kept up the pressure on league leaders Buxton, despite skipper Steven Snaith’s 54th-minute sending off, at the Turnbull Ground, on Saturday.
Blues boss Chris Hardy was able to pick an unchanged side from that which defeated Ashton United 2-1, three days earlier, after left wing-back Curtis Round passed late a fitness test.
The hosts started purposefully, as they have for most of the season and were handed an opening goal, inside six minutes. It was Snaith’s speculative outside-of-the-foot pass towards Dale Hopson, which saw defender Francino Francis ignore goalkeeper James Wren’s call on the edge of the Sutton box. The powerfully-built Francis took the ball past his team-mate, only for Hopson to nip in on his blind side and be left with an open goal to tap into.
Hopson again popped for the Seasiders’ second, on 15 minutes, this time receiving the ball from Dave McTiernan, just inside the box and showing good composure to turn well before placing between Wren and right-back James Beresford, beating the keeper at his left-hand post.
The half hour could even have yielded the ex-Darlington midfielder turned striker’s hat-trick. Hopson cut in off the right flank and curled across goal and wide of Wren’s right-hand post from the edge of the penalty area.
The side from the West Midlands only came to life late in the half when skipper Scott Lycett flicked the ball up and forced Shane Bland to push away at his near post with a powerful top-corner drive. While Phil Trainer volleyed well wide from 20 yards, six minutes before the break.
Predictably, Sutton added a second striker at half-time with Tyler Blake replacing Ryan Edmunds. However, it would have surely been all over, four minutes into the restart, had Matty Tymon converted Callum Martin’s right-wing cross, but the towering striker nodded over at the far post. Seconds later, Whitby’s Kieran Weledji headed Jean-Michael Gueyes’ dangerous right-wing cross off his own goal-line.
The Blues then founfd themselves reduced to ten men, soon after, as Snaith slid in on Lee Smith, just inside his own half. The Sutton midfielder stayed down, but it was still a surprise to most when referee Chris Ellis flashed a straight red card at the Blues battler. Smith attempted to play on, but was replaced, two minutes later.
Buoyed by their one-man advantage, Sutton looked to seize the iniative with full-back Steven Leslie overlapping down the right and firing across the face of goal from 18 yards, on the turn.
Midway through the second half, only a brave block from Weledji denied Lycett, with Whitby slicing behind and the experienced defender cursing himself for nodding straight at Bland from the resulting corner.
Hardy is rarely one to change things unless strictly necessary, but with legs tiring, he rested Round for more-defensive left-back option Mark Robinson, then with 14 minutes left, introduced lively striker Mikey Roberts for Tymon, who, by now, was playing as a lone forward.
Within four minutes of his introduction, Roberts raced to the right-edge of the Royals’ box, and smashed low, across Wren, but agonisingly wide of his right-hand post.
At the other end, Danny O’Callaghan, who buried a 20-yard wonder strike past Bland, in injury time, to steal a share of the points from the teams’ opening day meeting, could have made it a nervous last five minutes, only to turn wide from 12 yards.
Another Blues breakaway, with three minutes left, almost wrapped things up when Hopson teed up Martin to hit an awkward skidding shot, that Wren saw late, with team-mate Steve Palmer in front of him, to tip away, low to his right.
Sutton’s afternoon was finally summed up, three minutes into injury time as Francis, pushed up front for the last ten minutes, controlled neatly on the edge ofthe area but sliced well wide in the game’s final act.
Whitby stay within sight of Buxton and it looks like being an early-season six-pointer when the top two meet, at Buxton’s Silverlands, next Saturday. Blues fans may remember it was the site of their ‘great escape’ when they saw off the Bucks 1-0, under former manager Darren Williams, in April 2012, to avoid relegation on the last day of the season.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, Round (Robinson 74), Weledji, Bythway, May, Gell, McTiernan, Hopson, Tymon (Roberts 76), Snaith (c). Subs not used: Dawson (GK), Hume, Park.
Sutton Coldfield Town: Wren, Beresford, Leslie, L Smith (J Smith 56), Francis, Lycett (c), Edmunds (Blake 46), Trainer (McNaught 52), O’Callaghan, Palmer, Geuyes. Sub not used: Male.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Dale Hopson- His amazing scoring run continues, ably-assisted by a generous Sutton defence.
Match Sponsor: The Bay Hotel, Robin Hood’s Bay
Matchball Sponsor: Metallic Fabrications, Leeds