WHITBY Town face a dramatic end to the season after their second-last game fell victim to heavy rain – with tonight’s (Thurs) quickfire reschedule in serious doubt, writes Andrew Snaith.
With the league keen to finish the season on Saturday, even back-to-back fixtures were feared, after Wednesday’s trip to Matlock was rained off and then postponed to tonight (Thurs).
Heavy rain in Derbyshire meant even that looked doubtful, meaning the game being delayed to next week.
At one point players were concerned they would have to play two games in less than 24 hours.
Skipper Mark Robinson, who will be ever-present for the Blues this season if he plays in both remaining matches, said the situation would be “a tragedy” for the club.
Speaking after the initial postponement, he told the Whitby Gazette: “I think everyone’s really frustrated. It’s not supposed to get better overnight, so they might make us play Friday night then Saturday afternoon.
“To play two games in a week is hard, after you’ve played 40-odd games, but to play two in three days is just crazy.”
Darren Williams’ men also have an unresolved one-point deduction hanging over them, stemming from the registration of Ross Gardner, who spent just 35 minutes on the pitch in the 2-2 draw with Ashton United, last September.
Four points from their Derbyshire double will guarantee survival, even with the deduction, though could feasibly lose both matches and still stay up.
The Blues are a point clear of Chasetown, who travel to resurgent bottom-club Burscough. They’re two ahead of Frickley, with the league’s second-long-servers hosting Stafford Rangers. Town also trail another Yorkshire side, Stocksbridge, who are at home to Kendal, by one point. If the Matlock game is played on Friday, it wouldn’t be the first time Town have played two Northern Premier games in two days.
In April 2003, the Seasiders travelled to Gainsborough Trinity, winning 1-0 on a Saturday afternoon, before hosting eventual champions Accrington Stanley, the following day, losing 3-0. However, by then, Town were safely in mid-table.
Robinson, who admits he’s lost wages and is likely to lose more this week if the weather intervenes again, fears it’ll affect his team-mates, both in terms of missing out on other work and missing any hastily-rearranged games.
“We’re not sure who’s going to be available,” he said.
“Some have work commitments that are hard to get out of and it’s frustrating for them.
“It’d be a tragedy for us to go out of the league and not be able to give ourselves a full chance of being able to play when we can.”
The 30-year old has also had support across Twitter from football people.
“I’ve had the editor of The Non-League Paper saying it’s absolutely crazy. Even for a mid-table side to play that amount of games in such a short space of time, it’d be really hard, but with what’s at stake for us - it’s to keep ourselves in this league!
Regardless of the Matlock fixture, the Blues are set to face in-form Buxton tomorrow. The Bucks have put together an astonishing run of 10 wins out of 12, since February, to escape the relegation shake-up.
The Peak District outfit enjoyed a 5-3 win over Kendal Town on Tuesday, with record-scorer Mark Reed notching four of the goals.
Another factor in the fixture circus is Northwich Victoria. The Cheshire nomads will be relegated from the Evo-Stik Premier at the end of the season, possibly meaning just the bottom three will also exit the division.
The former Conference club have been playing at a number of different Midlands venues since having their Victoria Stadium sold by administrators and last week fell foul of the league’s rules on financial arrangements.
A possible Vics appeal could help the Blues, as the play-offs, which Victoria have been denied entry to despite guaranteeing a top-five finish, may be put back beyond a week tomorrow, possibly making an extension to the ordinary fixtures more likely.
Whitby have never been relegated in their 119-year history, but were reprieved by Cammell Laird’s demotion on ground issues, after finishing fourth-from-bottom in 2009, just 12 months on from a final-day escape.
Physio Kenny Bolton confirmed full-back Ashley Lyth is struggling with a rib injury and Andy Campbell will be missing, due to a long-running knee problem. On a positive note, Williams has recovered from a knee complaint, which has kept the ex-Sunderland star on the bench for the last three games.
A supporters’ coach leaves the Turnbull Ground for Buxton at 9am on Saturday, places are just £10 each.
The sides played out a seven-goal thriller last December in their original clash, Whitby losing out 4-3 despite Jimmy Beadle’s first-minute goal and a Jamie Clarke brace.