WHITBY Town failed to grab their first win of the season despite leading twice against 10-man strugglers Stafford on Saturday, writes Andrew Snaith.
After earlier leading 2-1, Town went ahead 3-2 after an indirect free-kick given because the home keeper held onto the ball too long, only to be pegged back moments later.
On Town’s first-ever trip to the side relegated from the Conference North, Blues boss Tommy Cassidy gave a debut to 30-year-old midfielder Michael Brough, signed on loan from Darlington and recalled striker Andy Campbell.
The Blues failed to show any sign of weariness as Alex White’s left wing cross was nodded over by Matty Tymon and Mark Robinson drilled across the face of goal after a neat move, in the opening five minutes.
At the other end, Ashley Lyth was pulled out of position allowing Jon Sheldon acres of room down the left, he forced Dave Campbell to parry at his near post, before reacting well to smother Mike Douglas’ follow-up.
There was a real blow for the Seasiders on 28 minutes when Brough suffered a head wound after an aerial battle saw him accidentally bitten by an opponent. The former Notts County man had to be replaced, with Andy Leeson taking his centre of the park role.
Moments later, Campbell forced Stafford keeper Danny Read to block at his near post, so it was against the run of play when the Staffordshire side grabbed the lead on 33 minutes.
Neville Thompson got to the byline down the right, before pulling back for Alan Nagington to turn the ball home from close range. Sub keeper Jordan Wood, who’d just come on, got his first taste of action as Whitby won a penalty seconds before half-time.
Campbell went down in the box, but referee Edward Smart saw a push and pointed to the spot, handing the Stafford skipper a red card and Town a route back into the game. Skipper Mark Robinson stepped up to slot home his second spot-kick in four days, to level the scores going into the break. It was to be the first interval where the Blues didn’t lead 1-0 and some travelling supporters took solace from that.
Perhaps their heroes did too as the visitors emerged from the dressing rooms intent on making their one-man advantage count.
Playing at a good tempo, they took the lead within six minutes of the restart. Robinson’s inswinging corner from the righ, was volleyed home on the turn by Matty Tymon, for the first goal of his second spell with the Seasiders.
The lead lasted four minutes as Rangers broke down the right, with Douglas and Dan Skelton adding single touches to play in Thompson, who fired first-time past Campbell.
Whitby’s other Campbell came close at the other end when Callum Martin’s driven cross found the former Middlesbrough marksman, who shot early, controlling then stabbing straight at Wood with his weaker right foot.
Jake Faichney replaced Tymon and Town immediately netted a bizarre third. Martin’s shot was collected by Wood, who hung onto the ball for a considerable length of time. Official Mr Smart had awarded a free-kick after Wood held the ball for more than six seconds. Campbell then squared quickly to Robinson who side-footed into the net unchallenged for the strangest of goals.
The drama was from over though as the crazy 18-minute spell yielded its fourth goal. The referee awarded a soft-looking free-kick 30 yards from goal. And taking a leaf out of Whitby’s book, Sheldon took the kick quickly, catching Campbell well off his line to chip home for 3-3.
As Whitby threw men forward, centre-half Kev Burgess drilled over the top from 12 yards on the turn, after staying upfield following a Town break. The Blues continued to pressure and with two minutes left, Martin’s perfect pinpoint cross was headed wide by Leeson.
Classy teenager Martin, one of three signed from Hartlepool in the summer, was at the heart of most of the pressure, first turning predator after shaping to cross but instead blasting a near-post effort that forced Wood to block hurridly.
The resulting corner was then played short to the 19-year-old who picked out Faichney at the far post, but the frontman from Fylingthorpe could only nod wide, just about grazing the paintwork of Wood’s right-hand post.
Stafford also had their chances in injury time but the scores remained level and a point did neither side much good as they each chase a first win of the season.
Unimpressed Cassidy said: “People say a draw away from home is a good result, but I don’t think it was a good result for us.
“Eleven goals conceded in five games is not acceptable –it’s not right.
“I was a bit disappointed in the all-round performance on the day.
“At 2-1 up and 3-2 up, you’ve got to be strong and we let them back in.”
On Town’s unusual third goal, the ex-Newcastle star admitted: “It caught me by surprise.
“I think the referee told him to hurry up, then all of a sudden, the whistle went.
“I can understand why they were a little bit frustrated by the decision.
“If it had been the other way around, I don’t know what I would’ve said.”
Whitby Town: D Campbell, Lyth, White, Hassan, Burgess, Brough (Leeson 28), Martin, McTiernan, Tymon (Faichney 61), A Campbell, Robinson (c). Subs not used: Williams, Hodgson, Courtney (GK). Attendance: 420