Whitby’s fourth last minute goal of the season snatched a point in a frenetic finish to Wednesday night’s league clash, at the Turnbull Ground.
The Blues’ late scoring habit saw them take a dramatic draw as the visitors somehow messed up a 3-on-1 tap in and ten-man Town broke with Liam Shepherd scrambling home off the post, three minutes into added time.
Player-boss Darren Williams rested Lee Mason and was without Matty Brown, who returned to his regular London base, so back came captain Mark Robinson and midfielder Dale Hopson against an improving Matlock side with eight wins from 11.
Steven Snaith’s first-time shot from Dave McTiernan’s ball over the top flew well wide of Jon Kennedy’s near post, while Matlock’s Northern Ireland under-21 international Jamie McDonagh fired across the face of goal, but also off target.
The Gladiators’ experienced skipper Danny Holland then curled just past Shane Bland’s left-hand post from the opposite edge of the box, before Holland chested down McDonagh’s right-wing cross for Otis Khan to drill over from 18 yards.
Kev Burgess nodded straight at Kennedy for the Blues and Matty Waters sent a speculative 25-yarder well wide on 21 minutes.
McDonagh, on loan from Sheffield United, then showed his class as he broke the deadlock ten minutes before half-time. Bland was left furious as the young Blade passed three defenders as he broke into the Blues’ box before beating the helpless keeper low to his left.
Whitby saved their best move for the final minute of the half as a series of neat balls released Waters whose low edge of the box drive was clutched by the well-travelled Kennedy. Striker James Brown suffered another injury problem just before half-time and was replaced up front by Rob Nolan at the break.
Another bright spell five minutes into the restart then saw Waters fire over on the turn. At the other end, 19-year-old Khan, who will represent Pakistan in World Cup qualifying later this year, forced Bland to save full-length low to his right.
Niall Doran replaced Lee Bullock for the last 14 minutes as the veteran again felt pain in his calf and soon after, worse was to follow as Snaith followed up his first half yellow with a second booking following a 50/50 slide tackle.
It seemed a harsh call with both players full-blooded and referee Mr Newhouse perhaps influenced by Snaith’s opponent staying on the ground.
Seconds later, the hosts felt they were badly done to again as Nolan was dragged to the ground as he held up the ball, just inside the Matlock box, but furious appeals were waved away.
The Blues threw on big centre-half Richard Pell up front for Waters, with eight minutes left. However, it seemed the men in yellow would see out the game, with players queuing up before Khan’s goalbound shot was headed out of the six-yard box by Hassan.
Matlock perhaps missed a trick with Khan refusing to keep the ball near the far corner flag in the final minute, before racing clear, deep into injury time, squaring for Ed Cribley when one-on-one with Bland, only for Cribley’s crisp finish to be flagged offside.
The Blues then quickly broke themselves, Doran chipped over the visitors’ defence and Hopson beat Kennedy to the ball, it rolled agonisingly against the keeper’s left-hand post, but Shepherd was on hand to bring the house down as he tapped in.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess, Bullock (Doran 76), McTiernan, Waters (Pell 82), Hopson, Snaith, J Brown (Nolan 46), Shepherd. Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK).
Attendance: 193; Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the match: Ibby Hassan.
Whitby Town 1 Matlock Town 1