Bland brilliance spares Blues’ blushes

Whitby Town keeper Shane Bland makes a terrific save in his man of the match performance at home to Curzon Ashton'picture: Brian Murfield
Whitby Town keeper Shane Bland makes a terrific save in his man of the match performance at home to Curzon Ashton'picture: Brian Murfield

Whitby Town had teenager keeper Shane Bland to thank for an outstanding performance as he stopped them from getting turned over on Wednesday night.

Slick visitors Curzon Ashton, newly promoted into the EvoStik League’s top flight, won with a simple tap-in from striker Matthew Warburton.

Richard Pell, a last minute replacement for Lee Bullock who was injured in the warm-up, climbs high for Whitby'picture: Brian Murfield

Richard Pell, a last minute replacement for Lee Bullock who was injured in the warm-up, climbs high for Whitby'picture: Brian Murfield

But the fact is that without Bland in net, Whitby would have been comprehensively beaten.

Boss Darren Williams was left frustrated as, for the second time in a week, his side did not start playing until the second half.

The same thing happened on Saturday and resulted in a 2-1 defeat at Stourbridge.

“At any level, you cannot just turn up at half-time and expect to win a game,” he said yesterday morning.

Whitby Town man of the match, keeper Shane Bland'picture: Brian Murfield

Whitby Town man of the match, keeper Shane Bland'picture: Brian Murfield

“The second half was a copletely different performance which was encouraging but it’s not encouraging when you haven’t learnt from Saturday.”

“The end product from everyone was missing. We were playing some fantastic stuff up to the final third but picked the wrong pass or the wrong option.”

The Blues’ night did not exactly start well when midfielder Lee Bullock pulled a calf in the pre-match warm-up and had to be replaced by Richard Pell. Bullock was due to be assessed by the club physio yesterday morning.

Whitby began in lively enough fashion with both Lee Mason and Matthew Waters trying their luck with snap shots but neither failing to trouble the visitors’ Turkish keeper Hakan Burton.

Curzon Ashton almost took the lead on 17 minutes when a deep corner was headed back across goal but Bland acrobatically flipped the ball away for the first in a series of fine saves. The 19-year-old was then down quickly at his near post to keep out Warburton’s venomous drive.

But there was nothing Bland could do just before the half-hour as Warburton evaded the Blues’ back four and had time and space to pick his spot for 1-0.

The Greater Manchester outfit were threatening to run away with the game before the half-time oranges, with Ryan Brooke slaloming his way through the defence but his effort was again matched by Bland’s quick reactions.

Whitby showed a little more urgency after the restart, but the creativity craved by the chilly crowd was still lacking. Mason embarked on a strong run up the left flank, twisting one way then another but drilled only at Burton, with, to be fair, little support available.

Even the decisions were going against them, with two strong appeals for handball in the Curzon Ashton box ignored by the referee.

One local lad replaced another on the hour as Matty Brown made way for the lively Sam Calvert – one of Whitby’s better players after he came on.

As time elapsed it was hard to see where the Blues would get anything out of the game, and equally puzzling that they were still in it, despite failing to trouble Burton and their opponents stroking the ball around the park as if it was a training exercise.

Whitby came within a whisker on 72 minutes as Liam Shepard arrowed a useful ball across the face of goal but it narrowly evaded the outstretched leg of Craig Farrell.

Williams is still hoping to strengthen the squad, but the club’s financial position means they are unable to compete with some of the more affluent outfits in the region. He said they may be an opportunity when some of these clubs then release players after a few games, having built up a large squad over the summer.

“We have built a squad not based around spending a load of money, but with lads who want to be at the club.”

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess, Pell, Waters, Brown (Calvert 57), Gardner (Callaghan 74), Farrell, Mason (Pool 90), Shepard.

Attendance: 265.

Whitby Town 0 Curzon Ashton 1