Hassan sent off as seven-match run ends

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Ten-man Whitby’s seven-match unbeaten away run in the Northern Premier League came to an abrupt end in Norfolk, with defender Ibby Hassan sent off early on.

The Blues’ longest hike of the season proved their undoing, but player-manager Darren Williams refused to blame the near 350-mile round-trip for Saturday’s defeat.

“You can make excuses about the journey”, he said.

“But I thought we started off sluggish. It was a very harsh decision to send Ibby off.

“It took the life out of the players and psychologically affected their performance.”

Newly-promoted King’s Lynn started strongly, but it was the Seasiders who came closest to breaking the deadlock on eight minutes.

A fine one-touch move released former Rochdale winger Adam Rundle whose angled shot from six yards was somehow parried by Alex Street.

Shane Bland then emulated his opposite number with a flying save to keep out Andy Hall’s left-wing effort.

Dan Jacob headed straight at Bland, before Whitby’s Graeme Armstrong had a shot charged down and Craig Farrell wastefully hooked over from 12 yards.

The most controversial moment came on 26 minutes when Hall went to ground in the box, dramatically, as he raced clear, pursued by the Blues’ last defender, Hassan.

A penalty was awarded and the Seasiders’ popular full-back was dismissed.

“I felt it was the wrong decision”, said Williams. “I think he’s gone down very quickly and it wasn’t a sending off as the lad’s going away from goal.”

Some justice was done when Rob Duffy’s weak penalty was comfortably clutched low to his right by Bland. Jason Lee forced the ex-Middlesbrough teenager to tip over with a 30-yard drive out of nothing, before the inevitable breakthrough came, 11 minutes before half-time.

“I said we had to be strong for 10-15 minutes”, Williams said. “If we’d got that early goal, we’d have had a chance.”

Instead it was Lynn who struck first when Hall’s driven left-wing cross was parried into the path of Jacob, who swept home, point-blank.

Worse was to follow as Hall unleashed a 20-yard bullet that flew past a helpless Bland, the ball smashing in off the inside of the keeper’s left-hand post, three minutes before the break. There was still time at the other end for Armstrong to curl wide an ambitious effort from an acute angle, seconds before the interval.

Lynn missed two great chances early in the second half, as Gary Mills headed a pinpoint right-wing cross wide from under the Blues’ bar and overlapping right-back Ryan Clarke forced Bland to block a low near-post drive with his legs. Then came a big injustice as Shane Henry was pushed then slid into by Jordan Yong, only for the referee to ignore furious claims.

Dan Quigley then rubbed it in by making it 3-0 from the edge of the area. Whitby players were slow to react after losing possession around the centre circle and Quigley had an age to slot past Bland.

“We got into a lazy mentality”, said Williams, “We missed a couple of chances on the edge of the box and we haven’t got out quickly enough.”

Forwards Nathan Mulligan and Steven Snaith replaced Rundle and Farrell, midway through the second half, but it was the men in yellow who came close, seconds later, as substitute Stephen Spriggs’ shot was cleared off the Whitby line, at the far post. Williams also threw on Tom Portas, who wasn’t 100% fit, to rest Armstrong.

The visitors had one less indignity to suffer, during three minutes of injury time. Clarke was harried into a head-high back-pass that Street pushed away. “There was no yellow card. The keeper has prevented a goal going in”, was Williams’ take. “He wasn’t going to give it until the linesman flagged, but the referee has a better view, you don’t know where the balance is.”

The indirect free-kick was also given nearer the penalty spot when Street appeared to handle on the edge of the six-yard box. The defensive wall was marched to the goal-line, but failed to stay where they were told as Snaith clipped the laid off set-piece wide.

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan (s/o 26), Robinson (c), Burgess, Bullock, McTiernan, Henry, Mason, Armstrong (Portas 80), Farrell (Snaith 65), Rundle (Mulligan 65).

Subs not used: Cook (GK), Pell. Attendance: 532

King’s Lynn 3 Whitby Town 0