Blues’ new era begins with defeat

Whitby striker Matty Waters is beaten to the ball by Sutton Coldfield keeper James Wren during Saturday's 1-0 loss at the Turnbull Ground. Picture: Brian Murfield

Whitby striker Matty Waters is beaten to the ball by Sutton Coldfield keeper James Wren during Saturday's 1-0 loss at the Turnbull Ground. Picture: Brian Murfield

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Chris Hardy’s first competitive match as Whitby Town manager ended in a 1-0 defeat, at the Turnbull Ground, on Saturday.

A solitary goal from visitors Sutton Coldfield Town was enough to earn them all three points as the Blues failed to do enough in the final third to earn themselves a share of the spoils.

Hardy’s first Whitby side included two changes with Ross Gardner replacing Lee Mason on the right-wing and ex-Guisborough full-back Callum Martin slotting in behind as Liam Shepherd missed out.

Danny Dixon, another former Guisborough player, became Hardy’s first new signing, taking the gloves as substitute goalkeeper.

The new-look Blues took to the field in an old-school shape, with a traditional 4-4-2 formation which appeared to be paying dividends after a bright start saw Mikey Roberts fire across the face of goal and wide.

Roberts’ strike partner, Matty Waters, then nodded a right-wing cross inches past James Wren’s right-hand post from 12 yards.

At the other end, lively left-winger Dan O’Callaghan tricked his way past Martin and forced Shane Bland to save with his legs from the left-edge of the box.

The West Midlands outfit should have led on 24 minutes as Jordan Goddard dispossessed Dave McTiernan, ghosted into the six-yard box and saw a snapshot deflected into the path of team-mate Iyseden Christie.

However, much to the hosts’ relief, the stocky former Coventry City frontman turned high and wide from a great position.

Roberts, another of Hardy’s former charges from up the moor road, then brought a comfortable low stop from Wren with a skidding, low, 20-yard effort.

In a game of few chances, played in blustery conditions, the defining moment of the match arrived seven minutes before half-time.

Mark Robinson was adjudged to have jumped in high on Ryan Edmunds and the resulting free-kick, just right of centre, 25-yards from goal, was curled superbly across Bland and in off his right-hand post, by Goddard.

The visitors made two changes early in the second half, but they almost saw their lead wiped out 10 minutes after the resumption.

Martin hung up a deep cross and Roberts’ header from the edge of the box looped upwards, seemingly in slow motion, only to catch Wren’s left-hand post, but this time, the woodwork kept the ball out.

Hardy replaced Gardner with Mason in a straight swap on the right and within seconds, another tricky winger, Ryan Brobbel, hooked a sidefooted 25-yard free-kick over the wall, but narrowly off target, to Wren’s right.

Brobbel then made way for big Richard Pell, who was pushed up front as the Blues went for a direct plan B, for the final six minutes.

Roberts’ diving header from Mason’s right-wing ball flew wide, two minutes from time, before centre-half, Kieran Weledji embarked on a run from his own half in the dying seconds.

The former Middlesbrough man got within 20 yards of the away goal before poking a low effort that Wren gratefully clutched, and Whitby’s last chance of salvaging a point had gone.

The 1-0 reverse saw the Seasiders lose out to the Evo-Stik Premier Division newcomers by the same scoreline as September’s away defeat.

The result is a sobering reminder of the size of the task facing Hardy and his squad, though results elsewhere mean Whitby remain fourth from bottom going into the festive programme.