Blyth Spartans taught Whitby Town a lesson in the art of taking your chances when on top, as they claimed a 2-0 win at the Turnbull Ground on Wednesday.
The Blues matched the table-topping Spartans for the majority of the derby encounter, and were firmly in the ascendancy for much of the first half, but failed to seriously extend visiting keeper Fabian Otte until the second period.
By contrast, Blyth demonstrated a ruthless streak during their one spell of dominance, following the resumption.
The visitors got stuck in traffic on their way to Whitby and kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, so it was no real surprise that the hosts settled the quicker.
Ryan Brobbel displayed some neat footwork before playing in Mikey Roberts for the game’s first clear opening, but Town’s top-scorer’s effort from the edge of the box was easily held by Otte.
Brobbel then stole the ball in midfield and sent Roberts scampering in on goal again, but after holding off the attentions of two defenders, he fired wide of the near post.
Whitby threatened again when Brobbel opted to go for goal himself, but his curling shot from 20 yards flew over the crossbar.
After the home side’s bright start, Blyth began to exert some pressure of their own in the middle of the opening period, but it was the Seasiders who finished the half the stronger.
The Blues cranked up the intensity and worked a couple of openings by pressing the Spartans’ midfielders into conceding possession in their own half. One such instance saw the ball break to Roberts, some 40 yards from goal, and spotting Otte off his line he unleashed an instinctive snapshot that finished just the wrong side of the post.
More Whitby pressure in the Blyth half afforded Matty Waters a sight of goal on the right edge of the area but he dragged a tame shot wide, before Brobbel played the same player in on the left side of the box, but his attempt at beating Otte as his near post only picked out the side netting.
Just before half-time, Roberts dinked the ball into the path of Brobbel on the left side of the Spartans area, but there was nobody on hand to convert his clever ball back across the six-yard box with the goal gaping.
As has been the case on a number of occasions this season, Town started the second period looking sluggish by comparison to their first half showing and Blyth started to take control.
The visitors had already struck the post when they eventually grabbed the game’s opening goal in the 59th minute.
Arran Wearmouth’s effort was blocked by Shane Bland but the ball broke kindly for Daniel Maguire who could not miss from just six yards out.
Maguire should have made it 2-0 from close range when he somehow failed to get on the end of Wearmouth’s low ball from the right, before Whitby substitute Lee Mason finally forced Otte into a meaningful save at the other end with a powerful strike that the gloveman could only parry.
Whitby continued to probe and Roberts lashed one across the face of goal, but a horrible error by the otherwise impressive Ben Nearney then gifted the Spartans their second of the night in the 76th minute.
The on-loan right-back tried to dribble the ball past Robbie Dale on half-way but was caught in possession by the visitors’ left-winger.
Dale advanced into the area and beat Bland with a low shot which struck the foot of the post and rebounded perfectly into the path of Maguire, who once again was left with a simple chance inside the six-yard box which he duly tucked away.
Whitby pushed hard for a way back into the game in the closing stages but weren’t aided by the loss of both their strikers to injury, with Roberts and Waters limping from the pitch.
Mason whipped in a gorgeous cross from the right that was begging to be diverted into the away net, and the Blues worked a couple more decent openings, but Blyth defenders put their bodies on the line, and the ball just wouldn’t break for the Seasiders as the Spartans saw the game out.
Whitby Town: Bland, Nearney, Robinson (c), Bullock, Weledji, McTiernan, R. Gardner (Mason 60), Gell, Roberts (C.Gardner 81), Waters (Shepherd 90), Brobbel. Subs not used: Martin, Charmey.
Sponsors’ man of the match: Adam Gell.