BEN Jevons’ fifth minute goal helped fourth-placed Hednesford to a 3-1 win over the Blues, who were managed by Darren Williams for the first time, on Saturday, writes Andrew Snaith.
Despite the defeat, Town’s new player-boss said he was “really pleased with the way the lads responded” to his taking over.
It was always going to be a tough baptism as the West Midlands outfit hadn’t lost a league game at Keys Park in 12 months.
The former Sunderland star made three changes from the side that went out of the FA Trophy at lower-league Woodley Sports, seven days earlier. Dave McTiernan shrugged off a groin injury to return, with Lewis Hawkins available again to partner him in midfield.
Perhaps most intriguingly of all, the versatile Andy Leeson played up front for the first time this season, with Tom Marron in at right-back and Matty Dunford dropping to the bench.
The new/old-look Blues started brightly but found themselves behind inside five minutes after Hednesford’s first attack of the game. A simple ball down the right took Alex White out of the game and Jevons was left unmarked on the right edge of the box to slot across Dave Campbell and inside the far post.
However, the Seasiders were level within three minutes as Marron released danger-man Callum Martin down the right and his inch-perfect far post cross was headed against keeper Dan Crane and his right-hand post, before dropping perfectly for Leeson to tap in from two yards.
Both sides fired warning shots from distance, with Hawkins hammering a speculative rising drive over the top from 25 yards.
Ben Bailey’s back header from Chris Clement’s free-kick flew just wide but Blues were looking just as dangerous at the other end with Leeson, Martin and Matty Tymon combining well.
On 23 minutes, Leeson bravely beat Bailey in the air to head Tymon’s right-wing cross inches wide from eight yards. White then crossed from the opposite flank for Tymon to outjump Pedro Monteiro, only for the ex-Hartlepool striker to nod high and wide.
When the hosts did win the head tennis, Darren Campion found plenty of space just outside the penalty area on the left to launch a fierce half volley, with impressive technique, just over Campbell’s crossbar.
The Seasiders’ main outlet remained 20-year-old Martin, who drove in a testing low cross, that got under Bailey’s boot and Tymon was there to swivel, but stroke tamely goalward, for Crane to smother.
And when Whitby won a free-kick five yards outside the Pitmen’s box, Martin curled into a crowded area for Burgess to crane his neck, with the ball delivered just behind him and nod just wide.
However, there was nothing wrong with the delivery two minutes before the break as Martin caught left-back Chris Shaw in possession and squared for Tymon to somehow sidefoot wide from point blank range, with the ball on a plate for the out-of-form frontman.
The visitors were lucky not to be punished when Campion’s driven left-wing cross was kept out by a combination of White’s slide and Campbell’s parry. Leeson then caused more problems in the air from Martin’s lofted free-kick - Tymon’s far post bicycle kick stayed in play for Martin to beat Shaw down the right again and force Crane to beat away a powerful near-post strike.
As the frenetic pre-interval spell continued, Martin’s trickery won a corner that was played straight back to him by skipper Robinson, but when Bailey cleared the cross from the edge of the area, Hednesford broke in numbers. Some neat passing released Hay, who played in Jevons on the right edge of the box, but Hawkins tracked back and slid in with White, allowing Campbell to eventually smother the loose ball.
There was still more danger in the final minute of the half though as Clements chipped a free-kick towards Hay, who drilled across goal, from right to left, only for Leeson to block last ditch from Shaw and Campbell to parry the left-back’s rebound.
Clements then charged down White’s attempted clearance just outside the right edge of the Blues’ box, but bearing down on goal, he chose to put over a poor ball too far ahead of Jevons, but Danks did well to keep the ball in on the far side and force a near-post Campbell block, with a ferocious drive.
At the other end, McTiernan curled a disappointing 22-yard free-kick over the Hednesford crossbar and Burgess headed straight at Crane after meeting Martin’s far-post corner.
Ironically, it was to be Burgess’ opposite number Bailey who put the Pitmen ahead with a far-post header of his own - the homegrown centre-half nodding Clements’ vicious outswinging free-kick past a helpless Campbell, with 14 minutes remaining.
Clements and more dangerously, Campion, rifled over the Blues’ bar from distance, before Williams introduced regular impact-sub Jake Faichney for Tymon, 11 minutes from time.
As it was, under constant pressure in their own half and with big second-sub Marvin Robinson causing problems for Hassan in particularly, Whitby finally conceded a killer third, seconds later.
Clements’ header forward saw Campbell fall over Robinson as he tried to clear. The keeper’s weak punch could only find Danks just to the left of the six-yard box and he waited for the ball to bounce, before firing an unstoppable side-volley between Campbell and Burgess, for the clincher.
At the bottom, Stocksbridge held FC United to leave the Seasiders seven points adrift of safety and second-bottom in the Evo Stik Premier.
However, despite Saturday’s many setbacks, Williams was able to take positives from his first match in charge:
He told the Whitby Gazette: “Obviously, we were disappointed to concede an early goal, however the reaction after that, showed what character the lads have got.
“The performance as a whole - we looked a lot better than we have done for quite a while.”
Regarding Leeson’s move forward, Williams took advice before making the decision, revealing: “It was mentioned to me that Andy played up there previously last season and that he’d done a really good job.
“The idea was to have an outlet as a target man and by all accounts, I’ve been told that Andy creates things and he gets chances on goal, which he did.”
Williams also admitted new blood was required, particularly experience, which may include a recall for defender Ashley Lyth, who left the club seven weeks ago, following a dispute with previous boss Tommy Cassidy.
“I believe Dave Campbell has spoken to Ash, it was a shame for him to move on, but there’s a possibility that Ash may be coming back here.
He added: “We need more strength in depth, the people Hednesford brought on were proven strikers and proven players, who’ve been around a bit. We don’t have that - we have a lot of young lads and, no disrespect to the young lads, but I think we need someone that can come off the bench and make a big difference.
“We also need someone who can score 10-15 goals a season - looking at this season, we don’t seem to have that at the moment, but there’s no reason to say someone can’t go on to get goals and prove people wrong.”
Whitby Town: D Campbell, Marron, White, Hassan, Burgess, Hawkins, Martin, McTiernan (Hodgson 89), Tymon (Faichney 79), Leeson, Robinson (c). Subs not used: Dunford, Williams, Courtney (GK).