WHITBY Town shipped four goals at home for the second time in two weeks on Saturday, going into Christmas without a home league win for the first time in their history, writes Andrew Snaith.
The result was made worse by the opposition being third-bottom relegation rivals Buxton, who leave Darren Williams’ men now eight points adrift of safety in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier.
Williams made four changes from the side that threw away a 3-0 lead to lose 5-4 to Nantwich, a fortnight ago.
Ibby Hassan replaced the suspended Kev Burgess in the centre of defence, with Tom Courtney in goal instead of an unavailable Nick Liversedge. There was also a different shape up front with Jamie Clarke and Andy Appleby back ahead of the benched Matty Tymon and injured Jordan Hugill.
Whitby again made a great start and grabbed the lead inside the first minute. Jimmy Beadle, with yet another goal from distance, broke the deadlock, firing into the roof of the net, first-time, from 25 yards.
The visitors immediately pressured and Tommy Agus’ goal-bound header was deflected wide, with the corner hooked off the line by Blues skipper Mark Robinson.
A near-carbon copy on 12 minutes saw Agus’ effort again ricochet behind, but this time, Robinson’s attempted clearance from a Mark Reed bicycle kick, struck team-mate Ashley Lyth and dropped into the net for a soft equaliser.
The Derbyshire outfit were on terms for all of five minutes as Appleby cut into the Bucks’ box from the left, only to be pushed to the ground as he approached the near post.
Referee Matt Diccico had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and Clarke stepped up to lift the ball calmly into the top-right corner of the net.
Buxton remained a threat for the remainder of the half and Reed forced Courtney to get down and push a 30-yard drive past his right-hand post, with the ball possibly heading wide, but the ex-Blyth goalkeeper taking no chances.
Five minutes before half-time, the Peak District side levelled for a second time. Reed’s goalscoring record suggests it’d be dangerous to let him shoot from 20 yards but Whitby did and the 30-year-old slammed his 199th Buxton goal past Courtney.
Like at Whitby, a young boss in his first management post took over from an old stager at the Silverlands. Ex-Hull City and Barrow midfielder Scott Maxfield (35) replaced John Reed in October and would have been delighted when his side took the lead for the first time in the last minute of the half.
This time it was Bradley Barraclough, making his first appearance on loan from Lincoln City, who was able to turn neatly in the Blues’ box and fire home crisply for 3-2.
It will have been a very different team-talk for Williams as opposed to two weeks ago when his side led 3-1 at the interval. The Seasiders looked a bit brighter after the break with Beadle drilling a 25-yard free-kick narrowly wide just after the restart.
And the Turnbull came alive just after the hour as 38-year-old Clarke showed why he’s scored goals wherever he’s been in a distinguished non-league career- running onto a long ball, holding off his marker and slotting calmly past Hartley from the edge of the area to tie the scores for a third time.
However, Town suffered a blow just seconds later, as Hassan went down in his own box with a calf injury and versatile fellow Tynesider Andy Leeson took his place.
Meanwhile, a speculative low drive from distance was just about held at the second attempt by Courtney as Buxton strikers lurked.
Whitby’s second change soon followed and Billy Blackford, continuing his comeback from a broken collarbone, replaced the quiet Callum Martin on the right wing.
It was that same side that yielded the next goal, but not the way the majority of the hardy 214 crowd wanted it to go.
With 14 minutes remaining, a simple one-two released the dangerous Kieran Lugsden on the left edge of the Whitby six-yard box, who showed why he’s in the league’s top-10 marksman with a clinical finish.
With Clarke holding his left-arm after a clash in the area, Williams opted to shore up midfield personally, introducing himself and pushing joint-top-scorer Beadle up front.
It almost paid dividends after a dramatic turn of events in the final three minutes. Blackford used his pace to get in behind the visitors‘ backline. He beat one man only for Hartley to bring him down near the byline, seconds after the youngster skipped into the box earning Whitby a second penalty.
If the former Rotherham United keeper wasn’t already in trouble, he guaranteed himself a red card after shoving referee Diccico to the ground. Understudy Adam Billard replaced fellow debutant Barraclough, but unlike his composed late finish from 12 yards against Nantwich, Beadle’s vital spot kick was a good height for the 20-year-old to dive left and parry clear.
Cue wild celebrations on the Buxton bench, with the final whistle soon following as they opened up a seven-point lead over the Blues with their first league win since September.
For Williams and Whitby, it leaves them eight points away from fifth-bottom Mickleover, who stand on the other side of the relegation trapdoor. Town’s player-manager told the Whitby Gazette he’s still confident of an escape, but things must change.
“I’m not concerned, obviously, about our forward play, because we’re scoring goals, it’s just the defensive point of view we need to look at. Once we do that, I don’t foresee any problems from then on, but at this moment in time, it’s causing a lot of problems.
“I think putting the sole blame on the back four is unfair, I don’t think it’s solely down to the defence. We’ve got to each look at ourselves and look at the team defending as a whole, as a unit.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of effort- the lads work hard.
“I think it’s a lack of concentration, switching off at the wrong times, not picking players up, not tracking runners, but we’re also making life really difficult for ourselves by conceding the goals that we concede.
The ex-Sunderland player also admitted playing himself more was an option and also wants a bit more steel from his side, adding: “I think it was a point to go on there and lead by example, more than anything.
“I don’t think we’re ruthless enough on the park, to be quite honest and I don’t mean that in a nasty way.
“A lot of teams come up against us, do the physical side of things, and get their foot in and we lack that at times.”
Whitby Town: Courtney, Lyth, Robinson (c), Hassan (Leeson 63), White, Portas, Martin (Blackford 68), Beadle, Clarke (Williams 77), Appleby, Smith. Subs not used: Tymon, D Campbell (GK). Attendance: 214
Co-operative Whitby WTFC man of the match: Andy Appleby.
Whitby Town 3 Buxton 4