CRAIG Farrell’s 30-minute hat-trick means Whitby Town are now as close to the play-off positions as the bottom of the league.
With the three divisions at Whitby’s level being expanded to 24 clubs next season, only two teams will be relegated from the Northern Premier and hopes are high that the Blues can go into 2013, looking upwards.
Player-boss Darren Williams is delighted with his side’s recent run, which has seen them pick up 11 points from a possible 15, after drawing a blank throughout November.
Williams told the Whitby Gazette it’s not always easy playing good football in the NPL: “I think it can be quite difficult.
“You need players to stand up, be counted, get hold of the ball and move it about,” he said.
“When we pass the ball, there’s not too many teams in this division that will live with us and I think we’ve proved that in the last two games.”
Town’s manager also paid tribute to Farrell, who now has six goals from four games and became the first Whitby player to net a competitive hat-trick since Jimmy Beadle, at Ossett Town, in March 2010.
“I’m pleased for Craig - we always knew what his capabilities were.
“He’s teamed up really well with Graeme Armstrong.
“Having the likes of Shane [Henry], Tom Portas and Nathan Mulligan linking up with Army and Craig Farrell - it’s fantastic going forward.
“From a defensive point of view, we’re getting people back in numbers and we’re looking strong there too.”
Williams was without Saturday’s hero, Henry, who was laid up following an allergic reaction, so in came Ashley Corker, the only change from the successful starting line-up at Chorley.
With five minutes gone, the visitors almost took advantage of defender Arjun Purewal recieving treatment off the field, when Gavin Allott, at the far post, narrowly missed a driven left-wing ball across the face of the Blues’ box.
The towering striker then turned provider, firing an identical drilled cross, from the opposite side, but with the same result.
Purewal back-headed wide at the other end, while Frickley’s Chris Howard was unlucky to see his lively shot-on-the-turn land straight in Nick Liversedge’s hands. The away side, without a single point on their travels all season, ramped up the pressure, with Liversedge at his best to parry Terry Barwick’s thunderous 18-yard effort, following a determined run from the ex-Grimsby right-back.
The men from West Yorkshire continued to push and deservedly led, seconds later, as Howard’s neat right-wing cross was nodded powerfully past Liversedge, from close range, by big centre-half Jake Picton.
Whitby gradually woke up as the half wore on, Mulligan slammed across goal from the right-edge of the penalty area and Armstrong fired wide from similiar range. With seven minutes left before half-time, Farrell squared for Armstrong to run on and hit a rising shot that looked to be heading over the crossbar, but ex-Town keeper Tom Woodhead took no chances and acrobatically helped the ball on its way.
It took a solo effort to level for the Blues, three minutes before the break, as Mulligan cut in from the left flank, beating Barwick and hooking across Woodhead, only to strike the keeper’s left-hand post - but Farrell was on hand to find the roof of the net, first-time, from 12 yards.
The frontman added: “Nathan Mulligan’s done really well, he’s got at the defender and he’s hit the strike across the keeper.
“As I’ve come to hit it, there’s bodies everywhere and I’ve just managed to see a corner that I’ve picked my spot in.”
Athletic were undaunted though and could easily have gone in ahead when Woodhead’s clearance found Allott, who beat Mark Robinson near the byline and crossed for Jimmy Ghaichem to force Liversedge into pushing wide with an outside-of-the-boot effort.
As with Armstrong’s earlier blast, the ball may well have been heading off target. From the resulting corner, Picton was unlucky to pick out a team-mate on the goal-line, who deflected over.
Reflecting on Farrell’s leveller, Williams claimed: “It’s a great time to score - it puts you right back in the game.
“Had we come in behind at half-time, Frickley would’ve had their noses up a bit.
“We were a little bit sluggish to start off, we went about things all in the wrong manner, we got drawn into playing Frickley’s game, which is not us, we need to get the ball down and play football.”
Despite their manager’s views, the hosts required a direct route to claim the lead for the first time, 11 minutes into the second half.
Armstrong went down easily under a furious Barwick’s challenge and the resulting Ibby Hassan free-kick, was flicked on by Alex White for Farrell to sidefoot home with his second touch.
Allott turned over from 12 yards, before the Blues opened up a two-goal cushion on 64 minutes. It was another ball into the visitors’ six-yard-box that caused chaos and Corker swivelled to beat Woodhead from point-blank range.
Williams then took the opportunity to replace Armstrong with the eager forward running of Steven Snaith and give a 20-minute run-out to the popular Kev Burgess, in place of fellow centre-half White.
It wasn’t long before Farrell’s third and Whitby’s fourth.
Farrell said: “The ball’s played up, I think the defender’s misjudged it a little bit, I’ve taken it on my chest and half-volleyed it in the corner.”
Farrell and Mulligan are now joint-fifth in the NPL Premier’s scoring charts with 13 league goals each. Frickley almost grabbed another strike themselves, deep into four minutes of injury time, but their man-of-the-match Patrece Liburd nodded high into Liversedge’s gloves.
Williams also revealed that the game almost didn’t go ahead, as the officials inspected a boggy part of the field, near the edge of the penalty area at the Promenade End just two hours before kick-off.
“The bottom corner was quite heavy - there was a lot of sand on it and the ref wasn’t happy with that,” said Williams.
“In my mind, I wasn’t bothered and I spoke to the Frickley manager and he was the same.
“I can understand where the ref’s coming from, but if 99 per cent of the pitch is perfect, then that one per cent wasn’t really going to be causing too many problems.”
As for Farrell, he was “absolutely delighted” with his afternoon’s work and remains optimistic for the rest of the season, but also spared a thought for team-mate Mulligan.
“It can’t be easy for him, with all the goals he’s scored, for me to come in and him to go on the wing, but I thought he was fantastic today.
“We’re unbeaten in five, at the moment, three wins and two draws, if we keep that run going until the end of the season, you never know.”
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), White (Burgess 70), Purewal, McTiernan (Tait 75), Portas, Corker, Farrell, Armstrong (Snaith 66), Mulligan. Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK). Attendance: 284
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man Of The Match: Craig Farrell
Whitby Town 4 Frickley Athletic 1