A TRADEMARK Chris Batchelor piledriver earned a vital point for Whitby Town against fifth-placed Marine on Saturday, writes Andrew Snaith.
Manager Tommy Cassidy was without injured midfielder John McReady, so handed Dave McTiernan a first start after returning from Spennymoor Town, last week.
It was a reshuffled line-up that saw Andy Leeson sitting in front of the defence to hopefully nullify the threat of the Evo-Stik Premier’s top marksman, 24-goal Jamie Rainford.
The away side should have led inside 10 minutes but Rainford’s strike partner Neil Harvey fired wastefully over the crossbar when one on one with Dave Campbell. At the other end, Campbell’s namesake, former Middlesbrough striker Andy, got in ahead of keeper Ryan McMahon only for Thomas Moore to get across and block.
Whitby had a number of efforts from distance, first when Leeson carried the ball and hooked just over from 30 yards, then two efforts from overlapping left-back Leon Scott.
Scott’s first strike forced a good save low to his left by McMahon from fully 25 yards, then moments before the break, the ex-Harrogate defender drilled narrowly wide from just outside the area, after great first-time control on his chest.
But Town manager Tommy Cassidy was disappointed after giving away “a soft goal” early in the second half.
And it was Scott who failed to pick up Paul Henry at the far post, who nodded home gleefully from Harvey’s left-wing cross to put the Mariners ahead.
Kevin Lynch’s men should have doubled their tally through the same combination, four minutes later. Scott slipped on the ball and allowed Henry to race toward goal but, this time the former Northwich midfielder shinned a dreadful effort well wide from the right angle of the box, as the Whitby man desperately tracked back.
Right-back Darren Craddock then took a heavy knock on the near side of the ground around the halfway mark and in a popular straight swap, local lad Ashley Lyth took his place.
Lyth showed good attacking promise almost straight away, lashing some dangerous balls into the box, but nearly turned villain after upending Jon Goulding near the touchline. The resulting quickly-taken free-kick allowed Harvey to drive an outrageous cross-shot goalwards, forcing Kev Burgess to head clear from six yards.
McTiernan, who worked hard in a less-familiar midfield role for most of the afternoon, was replaced by big target man Ash Davis for the final 20 minutes.
The visitors from Merseyside arrived with five wins from six but they were denied another victory, 17 minutes from time. Another testing right-wing cross from Lyth fell invitingly for Batchelor, who drew back his left foot and slammed low through a crowded area, past a helpless McMahon and in off the inside of the keeper’s left-hand post.
The fourth-bottom hosts, who beat Marine 3-1 in December, could even have secured a double late on, with both chances falling to Davis.
First, the substitute glanced wide after great work from Leeson in winning a brave header and Davey Southern with the inch-perfect cross.
Then, with nine minutes left, the pacey former Northern League frontman raced clear after Andy Campbell helped on the ball neatly, only to hurridly fire straight at the onrushing McMahon.
After the match, Cassidy told the Whitby Gazette: “I think it’s a good point, I just need us to play well for the full 90 minutes.
“We did well in the first half, but were dreadful in the first 15 minutes of the second half and gave away a soft goal.”
On playing Leeson in front of the defence, he added: “I wanted to try out a new system and I was pleased it worked well.”
Cassidy revealed Craddock should be fine for tomorrow night’s clash with Stocksbridge and also praised his replacement Ashley Lyth, adding: “I thought he [Lyth] did really well when he came on.”
Whitby Town: D Campbell, Craddock (Lyth 61), Scott, Hassan, Burgess, McTiernan (Davis 71), Southern, Leeson, A Campbell, Beadle (c), Batchelor. Subs not used: Dalton, Hackworth, Liversedge (GK). Attendance: 248
Whitby Co-operative WTFC man of the match: Ibrahim Hassan
Match sponsor: Whitby & District LVA; matchball sponsor: Royal Engineers Association, Whitby & district branch
Whitby Town 1 Marine 1