By Andrew Snaith
Whitby Town 2 Spennymoor Town 1
Whitby returned to the top six and clinched a double over North East promotion rivals Spennymoor after Mikey Roberts’ dramatic 93rd minute winner.
The Blues leapfrogged their visitors on a rollercoaster evening in an Evo-Stik NPL Premier that continues to surprise. Roberts was playing just his second match after returning from a loan spell at Guisborough following a lean spell in front of goal.
Despite a 3-1 defeat to second-placed Stourbridge, ten days ago, Blues boss Chris Hardy kept an unchanged side and he was rewarded with a bright early showing. Chances were at a premium, but Whitby sprayed the ball around well, coming close on 17 minutes when attacking midfield duo Dale Hopson and Davy Carson exchanged passes and Dan Lowson was forced to save low at his right-hand post from the former. The following succession of corners culminated in Hopson hammering high and wide from Callum Martin’s pinpoint cross.
There was half an hour gone before the fancied away side, who made the first round proper of the FA Cup before losing at League One MK Dons, tested Whitby goalkeeper Shane Bland. However, when they did the County Durham outfit should’ve broken the deadlock. Glen Taylor, whose goal knocked the Blues out of the same FA Cup at the second hurdle, went through on goal, after intercepting Andrew May’s blind backpass, only to clip across Bland, from the left-edge of the box and pick out the foot of the gloveman’s left-hand post. At the other end, Luke Bythway’s six-yard downward header was cleared off the goal-line. Taylor then spurned another great opportunity after Dan McWilliams, this time, squared across goal to an opponent, but Bland smothered a tame effort low to his right. Then, seconds before the break, Rob Ramshaw’s inch-perfect through ball released Nathan Fisher, who brought a terrific stop, low to his left, from Bland.
At the start of the second half, Moors manager Jason Ainsley replaced Andrew Johnson, who took a strong but fair Bythway challenge, earlier on, with Thomas White. On 49 minutes, Taylor missed out for a third time after going past Bythway on the inside, but opting to twist back wide before slicing in the same direction, from the left side of the penalty area. Seconds later, Carson broke and rifled over from just inside the box, then soon after, a great, mazy run, down the right, ended with an off-balance effort into the near-post side netting. However, the Seasiders did find the target, on the hour. Matty Tymon went clear, one-on-one with Lowson, who upended the number ten, in the box, as the ball rolled wide. Referee Matthew Sowerby had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, where Hopson sent Lowson the wrong way, for his 18th league goal of the season.
Midway through the second period, Ainsley seemingly lost patience with the towering Taylor, as ex-Blue Graeme Armstrong, a perfect like-for-like replacement, was introduced. Within five minutes, the away side were level. Kallum Griffiths’ inswinging 20-yard free-kick, from near the left touchline, was delivered straight onto the head of beanpole centre-half Jamie Curtis and the ex-Gateshead man found the roof of the net point-blank.
Thirteen minutes from time, another like-for-like striker swap saw former Darlington marksmen Fisher and David Dowson swap roles, with the latter joining another ex-Quaker, in Armstrong, up top. Blues skipper Steven Snaith, who alongside Adam Gell, had enjoyed a real blood and thunder midfield battle with Jamie Chandler and former Blue Shane Henry, sent a speculative effort straight at Lowson before Ramshaw lashed a great opportunity wide and Dowson forced Bland to hold low to his left with a fine shot on the turn.
With three minutes of added on time announced, there was always likely to be one last twist in this often frenetic affair, which followed the same pattern as both of the two teams’ previous clashes, this season. Hopson had settled the league clash at Brewery Field, three days after Town’s cup exit at the same venue, but it was Roberts turn to shine, this time around. It was also the visitors’ turn to set up the opposition after a defensive error. Skipper Chris Mason slid in to divert a loose ball away from a stranded Lowson just outside the penalty area where Roberts was on hand to poke agonisingly into the empty net, in a real time-stood-still moment. Cue wild celebrations in the crowd, a timely “90…plus three” time announcement in the ground, a time-wasting introduction for Anthony Hume, as the impressive and cramp-ridden Carson took the crowd’s applause and thankfully for Whitby, the full time whistle, seconds later.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, Bythway, May, Gell, Snaith (c), Hopson, Roberts, Tymon, Carson (Hume 90). Subs not used: Robinson, Dixon (GK), Fryatt, Weledji.
Spennymoor Town: Lowson, Griffiths, Mason (c), Chandler, Tait, Curtis, Ramshaw, Henry, Taylor (Armstrong 68), Fisher (Dowson 77), Johnson (White 46). Subs not used: Mitchell, Anderson.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: David Carson- Ran at the visitors at every opportunity, linking up superbly with Hopson in particular.
Match Sponsor: RM Landers Butchers, Baxtergate
Matchball Sponsor: North East Tyres