A second half Dale Hopson strike keeps battling Whitby Town top of the Evo-Stik League, despite a tremendous assault from an impressive Matlock side, at the Turnbull Ground, on Saturday.
The Gladiators have been one of the division’s form sides, with just a defeat at Conference Altrincham since September, in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round. They began this league game in seventh spot, six points behind Whitby, with two games in hand.
Blues boss Chris Hardy made one enforced change from the team that saw off Workington 4-3, in an FA Trophy thriller, seven days earlier. Skipper Steven Snaith served a one-match suspension, for accumulating yellow cards, so Adam Gell returned to the midfield in a straight swap.
Amid galeforce winds, it was the hosts who threatened first, however, as Mikey Roberts went clear on the left-edge of the box but fired across the face of goal and wide, on three minutes. At the other end, the impressive Niall McManus cut in off the right and forced Shane Bland to touch over the crossbar with a curling effort. While Kieran Weledji and Dale Hopson’s neat interplay on the right ended with a ball across the six-yard from the former but no touch from either side.
Meanwhile, the Blues’ rivals Blyth Spartans led at Barwell, forcing the Seasiders’ hand if they were to stay at the summit. The second half was a much more lively affair, possibly due to that need for the hosts to win, but Hardy’s men were forced back for much of the game. Despite the hale and Yorkshire gloom, the Derbyshire visitors started strongly. Curtis Morrison clipped over from 20 yards, Michael Williams did likewise and McManus went in on goal, only to be denied by a brilliantly-timed Mark Robinson slide tackle.
Phil Barnes had a quiet afternoon in the away goal but was forced into action on 53 minutes, saving full-length to his left after Matty Tymon helped on Hopson’s left-wing cross. The tricky Ted Cribley forced Bland to tip over another 20-yard dipper, with the same player forcing Bland to smother at his near post, with a neat backheel, from the resulting left-wing corner. So it was against the run of play when Whitby led, just after the hour. Weledji’s right-wing cross was headed down by Tymon for Hopson to pop up unmarked and sidefoot into the bottom-right corner from six yards.
For Matlock, Marcus Dinanga turned wide and Michael Williams came close again from distance. The Blues were effectively playing on the break and had a chance to double their advantage with a 3 on 2 but McWilliams’ unconvincing low shot was held low by Barnes. Matlock came close again from a vicious left-wing cross, only for Morrison to flick a close-range header wide. As the yellow hordes laid siege again, in the final minute, a scramble in the Whitby box was turned onto Bland’s left-hand post, point-blank by Morrison. The Seasiders clung on, however, with possibly their best defensive performance to date, against talented opponents, in horrendous conditions.
Whitby Town: Bland, Weledji, McWilliams, May, Bythway, Robinson (c), Gell (Martin 64), McTiernan, Roberts (Hume 90), Tymon, Hopson. Subs not used: Bullock, Blackford, Dixon (GK).
Matlock Town: Barnes, Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles (c), De Girolamo, Wiley, McManus, Williams, Morrison, Dinanga (Newsham 72), Cribley. Subs not used: Pursehouse, Yates, Grocott, Travis.
Match Sponsor: MB Interiors, Doncaster
Matchball Sponsor: Sandsend Bay Holiday Cottages
Mascots, sponsored by Yorkshire Coast Radio: Marton Under 9s
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Dale Hopson