One of the Whitby Town’s worst displays of the season saw Darren Williams’ men well-beaten in the East Midlands, on Saturday.
After an 11-match unbeaten run, followed by three weeks without football, the play-off-chasers suffered a second-straight defeat.
“Not so much from a playing performance point of view, but the lack of effort and workrate meant we got what we deserved.” Williams told the Whitby Gazette.
The former Sunderland defender made two changes from the side that conceded three goals in the final four minutes in a 4-2 loss at Skelmersdale, seven days earlier.
Shane Henry made his first start since Boxing Day, with fellow midfielder Lee Mason also recalled as Williams looked to inject pace with a big wide surface to cover at Grantham’s athletics stadium.
However, it was the hosts making all the early running as Paul Grimes played in Lee Potts, who found acres of space on the left edge of the Blues box, only to drill high and wide.
Big Gregg Smith then hooked a high ball over the top for Grimes to run onto and fire first-time into the bottom-right corner of the net, past Shane Bland.
Midway through the first half, the Seasiders battled back and won a free-kick just outside the home penalty area. Craig Farrell stepped up, with the wall looking very deep, forcing the ball past Dan Haystead, low to his left, despite the keeper getting a good hand on the set piece. It was Farrell’s fourth goal in three games.
Despite their poor start, the visitors should have turned the match on its head and taken the lead as their two former Blyth strikers combined.
Farrell flicked on for Graeme Armstrong, who chipped straight into Haystead’s hands from six yards, one-on-one.
As it was, the hosts regained the advantage, eight minutes before half-time.
No-one got anywhere near Deon Meikle who gleefully headed Jack McGovern’s far-post left-wing free-kick past a helpless Bland.
“We don’t get close enough to people in the area,” Williams complained.
“It’s something everyone has to improve on.
“I tried to get everyone up at half-time, but we looked like we were 4-0 down and the game was over.
“I sent them out early to prepare – we also had a couple of players who were under the weather but didn’t tell me until half-time – it’s not an excuse, but I wish they’d said something earlier.”
There was little change from the Seasiders after the break and it could’ve been 3-1 seconds into the restart.
Smith chased down a ricochet off marker Mark Robinson down the Blues left and released McGovern, who crossed for Grimes, but the slippery striker slid the ball past the far post.
As it was, the Gingerbreads didn’t have long to wait for their third goal as Whitby suffered the ignominy of being turned inside out by left-back Lee Ridley.
The defender danced his way along the byline before slamming across the face of goal and the ball flew into the net off the unlucky Lee Bullock.
“You don’t mind losing to great goals, but they were very simple, that was the most disappointing thing,” Williams concluded.
Richard Pell, one of the unwell players Williams mentioned, then made way for fellow centre-half Kev Burgess around the hour mark with Adam Rundle later replacing Mason in another straight swap, in midfield.
Within seconds, the ex-Rochdale star flicked on for Armstrong to bring a desperate parry low to his left from Haystead.
Nathan Mulligan, who also wasn’t 100%, came on for Tom Portas with 12 minutes remaining, as the game began to open up.
Former Buxton winger Michael Towey was unlucky not to grab a fourth for Grantham with two minutes left. Gary King, on for Smith, linked up with McGovern to deliver a right-wing cross for Towey, who volleyed across Bland and against the inside of the teenager’s left-hand post, with the ball flying along the goal-line and back out.
Within moments, Bland cleared straight to Henry, on the right touchline, who sped forward and squared for Armstrong, only for Haystead to deflect the ball onto his right-hand post with an outstretched leg, from six yards.
The rebound fell back to Armstrong with Haystead again blocking with his knees.
“We had chances at the end.” said Williams.
“We could’ve got a draw but we wouldn’t have deserved it.
“After the match, I told the lads to go home and reflect on how they played,” he added.
Grantham Town: Haystead, Purcicoe, Ridley, Meikle, Lister (c), Lewis, McGovern, Towey, Grimes (Lacey 90), G Smith (King 78), Potts (K Smith 87). #Subs not used: Walker, Hawes.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock, Pell (Burgess 58), McTiernan, Portas (Mulligan 78), Mason (Rundle 68), Armstrong, Farrell, Henry. #Subs not used: Snaith, Campbell (GK).
Grantham 3 Whitby Town 1