The Seasiders were leapfrogged down to third by new leaders Rushall after an 89th-minute penalty rebound conversion.
Chris Hardy made three changes from the side that beat Guisborough 5-0 in midweek, the Blues boss was without unavailable winger/striker Kyle Fryatt, who debuted in style, with two goals up the A171, three days earlier. Assistant Lee Bullock was replaced by Lee Bythway at centre-half, with skipper Steven Snaith back after suspension and Matty Tymon alsio available again, up front.
In chilly Walsall, on-loan Hartlepool United midfielder turned wing-back Connor Smith came close early on for Hardy’s boys after Jose Veiga was stranded 30 yards from goal, but the youngster could only lob narrowly wide of the Portugese gloveman’s left-hand post.
Smith then turned provider, crossing invitingly from the right, only for Veiga to drop on Tymon’s far-post bicycle kick on the goal-line, with the away dugout up in premature celebration. Home defender Joe Hull headed just wide, while Dale Hopson’s shot from the edge of the box was bravely charged down following Bythway skilfully kept the ball in near the byline, before, three minutes before half-time, it was the Rushall bench that were out of their seats. Andrew May found himself on the wrong side of the lively Jazz Luckie as he scurried into the penalty area. May clipped the tricky forward on the heel and he went to ground giving referee Scott Simpson an easy decision to make. The sought-after Alex Reid took the resulting penalty, but Shane Bland saved a weak effort low and full-length to his left.
Chances were at a premium, early in the second half, with the pitch soft in areas which made passes occasionally run astray in a pacey encounter. Hardy introduced fit-again Callum Martin in his favoured right-wing role allowing Smith to move infield, 18 minutes from time. Hopson then threatened again from the fringes of the area, but Veiga pushed wide, with Rushall asking questions in the air at every opportunity, at the other end.
Blues were left fuming, a minute from time, as disaster struck with Simpson awarding a second penalty, this time for a soft-looking touch from Mark Robinson on Stan Mugisha, following a scramble in the away box. Rather bravely, Reid, reportedly fancied by Fleetwood, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa, again stepped up to take the spot-kick, only for Bland to once again parry, but Mugisha was perfectly-placed to tuck in the rebound point-blank.
With five minutes of injury time announced, Whitby flew forward in desperate search of an equaliser that would safeguard their top spot. Smith found himself in space, on the right-edge of the box, with time, but scuffed wide, loudly swearing at himself before making way for last season’s 23-goal top scorer Mikey Roberts. By now, Bythway had been pushed into midfield and it was the versatile former Guisborough man who nodded past the near post as Hopson saw an 18 yard drive deflected into the air. With that, the Blues’ six-week vigil at the top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division came to an end, though they have another opportunity to challenge from third, this Saturday, when another promotion-hopeful, Nantwich Town, visit the Turnbull Ground.
Rushall Olympic: Veiga, Christophorou, Cooper, Smith, Hull, Kettle (c), Partodikromo (Eze 83), Fitzpatrick (Mugisha 72), Luckie (Dell 66), Bottomer, Reid. Subs not used: Whittall, Squire.
Whitby Town: Bland, Smith (Roberts 90), McWilliams, May, Bythway, Robinson, Gell, McTiernan (Martin 72), Snaith, Tymon, Hopson. Subs not used: Weledji, Hume, Dixon.