Blues clinch first win at high-flying Rushall

Liam Shepherd (right) celebrates scoring Whitby Town's FA Cup equaliser at Shildon on Saturday'picture: Brian Murfield
Liam Shepherd (right) celebrates scoring Whitby Town's FA Cup equaliser at Shildon on Saturday'picture: Brian Murfield
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Whitby Town clinched a first-ever win at high-flying Rushall Olympic, on Saturday, and their biggest victory since Easter Monday’s 7-0 slaughter of Blyth Spartans.

Player-manager Darren Williams was happy but still feels there’s more to come from his side.

“We’ve done fantastically well,” he told the Whitby Gazette this week.

“To be super critical, we should have perhaps kept a clean sheet and went a bit quiet for 10-15 minutes in the second half, but I can’t grumble.

“The chances we had, we put away.

“We’re very thin on the squad at the moment with two regular centre halves out.”

Kev Burgess was joined on the sidelines by Richard Pell as Lee Mason returned to the side and Liam Shepherd moved from left wing to right back, as Ibby Hassan slotted inside to take Pell’s spot.

It looked set to be a long afternoon for the patched-up Seasiders when their West Midlands hosts led inside five minutes.

Aaron Williams floated a long ball from halfway that held up in the wind, leaving keeper Shane Bland stranded as Charlie Reece rounded him with ease and lobbed Hassan for the opening goal.

Mason then chipped Cameron Belford in the Rushall goal with a right-wing cross turned shot that found the crossbar.

Dave McTiernan fired a 20-yard free-kick inches over, before Town levelled on 19 minutes.

Overlapping left-back Mark Robinson headed McTiernan’s crossfield ball into the box where defender Jack Duggan poked away from the onrushing Belford, straight to Mason, who sidefooted into an empty net from the opposite side of the penalty area.

Before the half hour, Town turned the match on its head as Belford’s poor clearance was poked through for Steven Snaith, by strike partner Matty Waters.

Snaith, dodging loud calls for offside, sidestepped right-back Aris Christophorou as he slid in rashly, cut in from the left flank and drilled diagonally between Belford and his left-hand post.

Robinson then struck the woodwork in a mirror image of Mason’s attempt, this time, from the left wing, before the visitors grabbed a third goal, seconds later.

Shepherd raced forward, shifting the ball onto his left foot as he entered the 18-yard box at its right edge, with defenders back-pedalling, before sidefooting between his markers and across a helpless Belford.

Town’s Walsall opposition began the day in fourth spot and started the second half in determined fashion as Jacob Craner’s powerful edge of the box shot skimmed the bar from Reece’s lay off.

However, all hopes of a comeback from Richard Sneekes’ men evaporated when Matty Brown hooked a ferocious 20-yard effort goalwards that Belford could only fend into the path of Snaith, who stooped to head home point-blank.

A double change from ex-West Brom defender Sneekes saw Ramone Stephens and Josh Craddock introduced and the latter glanced a far post header just over the top from Mitch Tolley’s left-wing cross. Dale Hopson fired over before Williams replaced Waters, who had stayed down following a 50/50 challenge, with Craig Farrell, for the last 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, Bland did well to keep out Jake Heath’s low 18-yard drive with his legs, then Stephens was tripped right on the very line of the penalty area by Lee Bullock.

Despite the lively frontman landing in the box, referee Matt Jones was unmoved and awarded a free-kick that Kris Taylor hammered high over the top.

Moments after, Ross Gardner replaced Hopson in midfield, Mason provided a moment of magic to round off the scoring, nine minutes from time.

Williams jokingly credited himself with moving Mason in off the right flank with the ex-Blyth man’s mazy run taking him past three players.

He sighted Farrell unmarked to his left and the former York hotshot controlled with his left foot before despatching coolly across Belford and inside his left-hand post.

After the amazing save that denied Farrell a winner at the Turnbull seven days earlier, Williams and his staff were delighted.

“Everyone on the bench was buzzing to see Steve Snaith, because he worked his socks off, and Craig Farrell, on the scoresheet,” he said.

The celebrations reignited a touchline spat between Williams, assistant Dave Campbell and Sneekes’ angry number two Steve Hinks.

Not that Williams was in the least bit bothered after a fine win.

“It was a fantastic performance, the lads have done fantastically well,” he said.

“I said in the dressing room, that was good, but the game’s now out of the way and we need to look at the next one.

“Keep producing that sort of form, that sort of work and that sort of display, for long periods of the season and it’ll put us where we want to be.”

Whitby Town: Bland, Shepherd, Robinson (c), Bullock, Hassan, McTiernan, Brown, Hopson (Gardner 80), Waters (Farrell 65), Snaith, Mason (Poole 83).

Subs not used: Campbell (GK), Williams. Attendance: 229 WTFC man of the match: Lee Mason.

Rushall Olympic 1 Whitby Town 5