On-loan Hartlepool youngster Jack Blackford’s late solo strike sealed a deserved victory that keeps Chris Hardy’s men top of the Evo-Stik NPL Premier.
Blues were in fine form on their first-ever trip to Leicestershire side Coalville, as Hardy made six expected changes. After back-to-back cup defeats, with Whitby resting several players in midweek, there were returns for goalkeeper Shane Bland, centre-half Kieran Weledji, midfielders Dave McTiernan and Dale Hopson, plus strike duo Mikey Roberts and Matty Tymon.
Inside five minutes, Hopson’s ball from the right-edge of the box was nodded towards the roof of the net, point blank, by Tymon, only for keeper Matthew Coton to tip over. Tymon then sent a rising effort, with his feet, just over, from distance, after nipping in for the ball as Coalville tried to clear. The Seasiders then forced a succession of corners, but last season’s First Division South play-off winners held firm. The East Midlands outfit then showed for the first time, out of nothing, on 11 minutes, when Massiah McDonald fired low, across goal, from 18 yards, and Bland was forced to parry low to his right. Steve Towers headed high and wide before the Blues took the lead, just before the half hour. It was Hopson who picked the ball up deep, exchanged passes with Tymon and continued his run, clipping low and hard, into the bottom-left corner of the net from the left-edge of the penalty area.
The ex-Darlington man’s 12th league goal of the campaign was soon followed by a poke wide from similar distance, while four minutes before half-time, the impressive Nat Watson powered just over, from distance, for Coalville. However, the talented former Grantham striker went one better, a minute into the second half. Tommy Brookbanks’ side started purposefully after the break and Watson curled his ninth of the season around Bland, after cutting in off the left, for a tremendous reply. The Ravens seemed visibly lifted and pushed Whitby back for the first time, with Weledji almost colliding with Bland before nodding McDonald’s lob off the line, only for the Blues to defend well and find the net, for a second time, before the hour. Callum Martin overlapped down the right and cut onto his left foot to deliver a wicked inswinging cross for Tymon to rise highest, at the far post, to head low past Coton.
Hardy admitted that defensive midfielder Adam Gell had been unwell of late, he made way for Connor Smith, Whitby’s other on-loan forward from Hartlepool United, on 64 minutes. Martin again caused problems, midway through the second half, cutting in off the right flank and firing a testing cross turned shot that Coton had to push wide at full stretch. Coalville shot right back and Watson twisted and turned only to poke wide from the fringes of the Blues’ box. The crucial introduction of Blackford, in place of Roberts, up front, came nine minutes from time, but it was home substitute Karl Demidh who sliced wide, when well placed, late on. Blackford wasn’t to be so generous, after receiving the ball from Martin, on the right, he tricked his way past a couple of players, running at three more on the left-edge of the box, enjoying a favourable bounce off one and then showing great composure to slot past a helpless Coton, two minutes from time. But just when it seemed the game was over, Coalville came flying back. First, loud shouts for handball against Weledji were waved away as he deflected another effort wide, then another sub, Lukasz Rojewski tucked into an empty net after the Blues centre-half slid a further Watson attempt off the Whitby goal-line. The Seasiders held on, however, to enjoy a fifth straight league win and ensure the start of a fifth week at the top.
Coalville Town: Coton, Bryant, Torr, McAteer, Freeman, McMillan (Demidh 62), Walshe (c), Towers, McDonald (Dean 62), Troke (Rojewski 77), Watson. Subs not used: Holmes, Bowles (GK).
Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, Weledji, Robinson (c), May, Gell (Smith 64), McTiernan, Roberts (Blackford 81), Tymon (Hume 90), Hopson. Subs not used: Bullock, Dixon (GK).