The Seasiders sunk to fourth in the NPL Premier Division after losing 3-1 at Ashton United, on Saturday, despite their hosts playing 84 minutes with an outfield player in goal.
The North West outfit lost debutant goalkeeper George Dorrington to an ankle injury following a sixth minute corner. The on-loan Huddersfield Town youngster was carried off by Daniel Shaw and Richard Smith, with midfielder Smith then re-emerging from the changing rooms with the gloveman’s pink jersey and gloves. With no keepers on the Ashton bench, substitute Benito Lowe, another debutant, took Smith’s midfield berth as the number eight pulled on the pink and took Dorrington’s spot in goal, seemingly handing Whitby an enormous advantage. However, it was the Tameside club who dominated, passing the ball better but found themselves limited to shots from distance. Ryan Crowther sliced a tenth-minute 25-yarder well wide before pulling back for Josh Roberts to hammer over the top, on 20 minutes. Seconds later, Crowther backheeled for Johnny Gorman to send a skidding shot from outside the box, low into Shane Bland’s hands.
Blues quickly looked to reply and Callum Martin’s right-wing cross glanced off the top of Dave McTiernan’s head and inches wide of Smith’s right-hand post. The visitors deservedly led, seconds after the half-hour, as Gorman got in behind the Blues defence, as he raced onto Lowe’s speculative through forty-yard through ball, and switched from the left edge of the box for Matty Chadwick to turn across Bland and into the top-left corner. As Whitby desperately looked to test Smith, Dale Hopson crossed for McTiernan to pop again on the left-edge, but the tall stand-in stopper spread himself well to parry at the evergreen midfielder’s feet. Hopson then skied one from a good position before sending a tame low drive straight at Smith.
At the other end, referee Mr Baines was well positioned to wave away appeals for a penalty as both Chadwick and marker Dan McWilliams went down in the Blues box. Crowther then sent an angled effort wide of Bland’s left-hand post.
Despite an opportunity for Chris Hardy and Lee Bullock to regroup their charges at half-time, the game was effectively over, four minutes into the second period. It was the skilful Crowther who found space on the left-edge of the Blues penalty area, after good work from Chadwick, and smashed past Bland for 2-0. Hopson then fired well wide before being handed a way back into the game on 53 minutes. Skipper Steven Snaith, who cut an isolated figure as Whitby’s lone forward, fired goalwards from the edge of the box and the ball struck centre-half Shaw on the arm. Baines quickly pointed to the penalty spot where Hopson sent Smith the wrong way, clipping his 18th goal of the season, into the bottom-left corner and quickly rushing up the field with the ball.
Whitby looked more purposeful but lacked ideas with aerial balls meat and drink for a strong, well-organised Ashton defence. The impressive Chadwick, holding the ball up well, fired over from the box’s right-edge, on the hour. Soon after, Kieran Weledji’s slide put off the home marksman who looped just over from the other side of the Blues’ penalty area. By now, new signing Davy Carson had replaced the quiet Matty Tymon in midfield, but it was still all Ashton, with Bland smothering another Chadwick effort. Last season’s top scorer Mikey Roberts joined Snaith up front, as McTiernan made way but the lively marksman could only scoop straight at Smith from Martin’s right-wing cross. Hardy threw another forward option into the mix, dropping to four at the back and three up front as Kyle Fryatt replaced Mark Robinson, nine minutes from time. But it was to be the home side who struck the decisive next goal of the contest, again beating a flimsy offside trap for Chadwick to slide past Bland one-on-one from the fringes of the box. The Blues’ afternoon was summed up, with three minutes remaining, when Snaith’s low drive was held easily by the underworked Smith.
Ashton United: Dorrington (Lowe 6, Coo 76), Smalley, Maiese, Shaw, Connor, Lees, Roberts, Smith, Chadwick, Gorman (Knight 61), Crowther. Subs not used: Mason, Banim.
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, Weledji, Robinson (Fryatt 81), Bythway, Gell, Tymon (Carson 61), Hopson, Snaith, McTiernan (Roberts 70). Subs not used: Dixon (GK), Hume.