WHITBY Town boss Darren Williams was “really pleased” with his side for more than matching opponents four divisions above them in Wednesday night’s pre-season friendly at the Turnbull Ground.
The Blues needed a late leveller to earn a draw against a Hartlepool side featuring stalwart strikers Ritchie Humphreys and ex-Leicester City frontman Steve Howard but a delighted Williams told the Whitby Gazette today (Thurs): “The lads played some fantastic stuff.
“The reaction from us making changes at half-time was a lot better than the Scarborough game on Saturday.
“We didn’t look out of our depth and overall we were probably the better of the two sides, having pitched ourselves up against a League One side.
“We’re really now looking to shape the squad for the rest of the season.”
In a lively opening exchange, Whitby striker Graeme Armstong posed an early test when his shot from the edge of the box bounced up in front of ‘Pools keeper Scott Flinders who gathered at the second attempt.
Armstrong went a whisker away from opening his account in spectacular fashion on seven minutes when he spotted Flinders off his line and his attempted lob from the halfway line only dropped narrowly wide.
The League One side came close to taking the lead when Simon Walton flicked on a long ball and ‘Pools record appearance maker Humphreys - who later sportingly Tweeted Whitby Town a good luck message for the coming season - headed against the bar.
Humphreys – the visitors’ main danger man throughout the game - went close in similar fashion on the half hour mark but this time forced a terrific tip away from home shot-stopper Ben Escritt.
Skipper Mark Robinson needed to be alert to clear a header off the line after Colin Nish nipped in ahead of Escritt and nodded the ball goalwards, only for Town’s ever-present captain to spot the danger in good time.
Escritt proved the hero just after the break with a superb double save, firstly getting down quickly to smother Humphreys at the near post and then reacting swiftly to block Walton’s follow up.
Whitby introduced a number of fresh faces as the game went a bit flat in the drizzly conditions, but Nathan Porritt seized a chance to impress, having one shot blocked by the bandaged head of Paul Johnson, who earlier collided with his own player and then striking a shot from distance just past the post.
Hartlepool took the lead on 72 minutes when hesitant defending from the Blues presented midfield man Paul Murray with a chance to score with a deflected shot.
Although the experienced Howard went close to sealing the win with a header saved by Escritt, Whitby grabbed a deserved equaliser with five minutes left on the clock.
Nathan Mulligan forced his way into the box and an attempted clearance ricocheted off the Blues hotshot and past Flinders for 1-1.
The game ended on a disappointing note though for Whitby when Ibby Hassan was hurt in a clash from the last kick of the game, but Williams confirmed the versatile defender was fit enough to drive back home.
Whitby Town: Escritt, Wilson (Hassan 45), Robinson (c) (James 45), Burgess, White (Williams 75), Portas (Greener 75), Lambert, McTiernan, Armstrong (Harmison 72), Snaith (Mulligan 45), Smith (Porritt 45).