Whitby Town extended their winless league run to four games on Saturday, after a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of play-off hopefuls Nantwich Town. Paul Connolly takes us through five things we learned from the defeat.
1) Whitby were played at their own game
On the afternoon, Nantwich set up well and had a clear direction for how they wanted to go about beating the Blues.
It was refreshing. The visitors set up to play football and pass around whilst pressing high up the field- a tactic that has served Whitby so well this season.
They worked on pressuring Shane Bland, stopped the wing-backs playing out and cut off the supply to Dale Hopson for the most part.
The pressing forced the midfield to sit deeper and cut the supply off to Whitby’s frustrated forwards.
For the 90 minutes, the Dabbers pushed in a fashion that had become the Whitby way and it paid off, much like it had for Grantham in the Blues’ previous home encounter.
2) Nantwich worked out Whitby’s weakness early in the second half
Although Connor Smith has performed excellently at right-wing-back over the last few weeks, on Saturday it showed that it wasn’t his best position.
As soon at Phil Parkinson realised that Osebi Abadaki was getting no change from Daniel McWilliams, he switched his wingers round to devastating effect.
Abadaki moved onto the left-hand side and worked two of his three goals down that flank, whilst also ghosting in from there to secure his hat-trick.
3) Decision-making on the pitch needs to be better
At times, Whitby looked to be lost for ideas when moving the ball from the midfield into the final third.
On several occasions, midfielders had wing-backs constantly overlapping into space, but instead sent the ball into a crowded middle of the park, causing the play to change hands almost instantly and allowing Nantwich to break out.
Simple passes to the overlapping wing-backs in space would perhaps have proved more effective for the Blues, with Matthew Tymon lurking at the back post on numerous occasions.
Decisions on the field are becoming a talking point for Blues fans and manager Chris Hardy, who again bemoaned his sides decision-making and lack of ideas after the game.
“We didn’t do enough to warrant three points today, or even get a share of the spoils,” Hardy said post-match.
“We struggled to come to terms with their system; it was confusing.
“They had more ideas than us and it showed as the game developed.
4) Whitby can’t keep relying on Dale Hopson for goals
Over the course of the early stages of this season, it has become the norm to see Dale Hopson get on the scoresheet for the Seasiders.
Although the midfielder has netted on 17 occasions this campaign, and shows no signs of letting up, Chris Hardy’s men can’t afford to rely on him for the whole campaign.
Every week sides are starting to work out Hopson’s play and are continually marking him out of games, minus his moments as brilliance, as we saw on Saturday.
What also has to be said is that, in his current form, it’s a given that bigger clubs will be starting to sniff round Hopson and make enquiries.
With a two-year contract to his name though, he won’t come cheap for any potential suitors.
5) Whitby need to mix it up
Good football is all well and good, but at times things need a freshen up and that time has come for the Seasiders.
Going long and hoping for the best isn’t going to work with the players that Whitby possess, they are all footballers and like to play.
However, a change in system and formation to utilise other assets in the squad, whilst trying to retain that passing brand, could work.
The Blues have versatility in the squad, as well as fresh options, and need to make a use of those.
Anthony Hume continues to sit on the bench, Kyle Fryatt looked to cause problems when he came on, Lee Bullock has potential to sit in the defence to push Luke Bythway forward.
Things feel as though they’re in need of a freshen up, and it needs to come sooner rather than later.