BLUES slipped to third from bottom in the Evo-Stik Premier after an eventful first-ever trip to league newcomers Rushall Olympic, on Saturday, writes Andrew Snaith.
Manager Tommy Cassidy made one enforced change with striker Callum Hassan suspended, so local lad Jake Faichney took his place up front.
Skipper Mark Robinson drove a speculative 20-yard-effort well wide, before Matt Lewis was given the freedom of Dales Lane to put the Walsall side ahead inside nine minutes.
The former Bath and Telford marksman, who netted 17 goals in 17 games for the ‘Pics last term, was left completely unmarked on the edge of the Whitby area, to hook into the roof of the net for 1-0.
Teenager Luke Bottomer then cut in from the left and tested Tom Courtney in the Town net, who clutched the ball well low down.
The half hour saw Lewis Hawkins, on loan with Hassan from Hartlepool United, sidefoot wide, on the turn as Whitby had more of the possession, but struggled to create.
Rushall have an enviable record of five wins from seven on home soil this season and an extension looked a certainty when they won a penalty, 10 minutes before half-time.
The lively Ahmed Obeng got goal side of Ibby Hassan, who was adjudged to have dragged the 19-year-old to the ground.
Up stepped Mitchell Tolley from 12 yards to fire into the bottom left corner of the net, despite Courtney diving the right way.
The former Gretna keeper was tested again within two minutes, this time reacting well to push Lewis’ goalbound free-kick over the crossbar.
At the other end, Dave McTiernan’s inswinging free-kick was nodded over by Kev Burgess, who will have expected to do better when left free inside the Rushall box.
Town emerged purposefully for the second half and deservedly reduced the arrears 10 minutes after the restart, helped by some good fortune.
Robinson’s dangerous left-wing cross toward Matty Tymon, may well have taken a touch off the Whitby man but was then headed powerfully past his own keeper by opposing skipper Adrian Smith. Tymon was credited with the strike and, in the absence of an Evo-Stik dubious goals panel, was happy to claim his fourth of the season.
Obeng showed his pace on the hour with a mazy run, before slicing over the Whitby bar.
The luck then swung back in the home side’s favour when centre-half Hassan, having stayed upfield after a corner, appeared to be tripped just inside the Rushall penalty area. However, referee Mr Dexter saw nothing wrong and waved play on despite furious protests from a number of Whitby players.
Obeng, said to be pursued by a number of league clubs, then added insult to injury soon after, leaving Hassan trailing during another marathon run, before rounding Courtney and sliding home from a difficult angle.
However, Town should have levelled just two minutes later, when a pinpoint Callum Martin cross from the right was headed over by Tymon from inside the hosts’ six yard box.
The Blues were nearly punished when Olympic broken again and forced a corner, followed by a goalmouth scramble which ended with Courtney grimly holding onto the ball while laid on the ground.
Fifteen minutes from time, the fortune pendulum backed the visitors again. An inswinging Martin cross by the right touchline, 30 yards from goal, dropped perfectly inside the far post, giving keeper Lewis Fenney no chance.
Towering forward Rob McDermid, back with the Blues after a loan spell at North Counties East Barton Town, was thrown on for midfielder Hawkins with Whitby desperate for a late equaliser.
With five minutes left, they should have had it, when Tymon raced onto a long ball but, under pressure from Smith and Lucan Spittle, the striker’s control let him down and Fenney was able to collect.
Late on, Rushall could’ve extended their lead but Lewis fired across the face of goal after working a great position and former Wales schoolboy international Danny Bragoli also slammed well wide, from 12 yards.
Cassidy accused his side of “stupid defending” and wasteful finishing.
He added: “The three goals they scored were three mistakes.
“So at one end we’re giving goals away, making mistakes and at the other end, we’re not putting the ball in their net.
“I don’t mind teams creating things against us who are playing well and you think they’re a good team, but we’re giving goals away for fun.”
The former Gateshead and Apoel Nicosia manager also thought his men should have had a spot kick in the second half when Ibby Hassan went down in the box, stating: “That was definitely a penalty, there’s no doubt about it.
“At 2-1, we were the better team but then we make a mistake again, yet again and at 3-1 it’s very difficult.”
Whitby Town: Courtney, Leeson, White, Hassan, Burgess, McTiernan, Martin, Hawkins (McDermid 80), Tymon, Faichney, Robinson (c). Subs not used: Williams, Marron, Hodgson, D Campbell. Attendance: 241
Rushall Olympic 3 Whitby Town 2