A HARTLEPOOL side, including former Sheffield Wednesday star Richie Humphreys, eased past Whitby on Monday night, despite an improved showing from the Seasiders, writes Andrew Snaith.
Goals from James Poole and Colin Larkin ensured victory for the League One side at the Turnbull Ground.
Town were flat against FA Vase holders Whitley Bay on Saturday but put on a much better display with more football played on Monday night in front of an appreciative 169 crowd.
Dave McTiernan failed a pre-match fitness test on a knee strain, with defender Tom Marron again missing with a knee ligament injury and Ash Davis also sidelined awaiting a hernia operation.
Tommy Cassidy brought back fit-again Ashley Lyth, gave a first-start to Pools old boy Marc Ellison in midfield and debuted 18-year-old striker Jordan Marshall, currently on trial from Darlington.
But it was Marshall’s strike partner Andy Campbell who threatened in the third minute. A perfect first touch took the veteran striker past ex-Whitby defender Paul Johnson, but the former ‘Boro marksman could only scuff across goal after shooting from a tight angle to the right of the six-yard box.
At the other end, the highly-rated Poole beat three players before playing in Callum Hassan down the left, who crossed deep for Larkin to fire against the near post via the covering Kev Burgess.
Hassan came close moments later with a back header from 10 yards that dropped narrowly wide. Johnson then nodded onto the roof of the net as Tom Courtney desperately back-pedalled.
Poole side-footed narrowly off target as the visitors continued to dominate, but Whitby nearly hit back when Ellison benefited from a favourable deflection off referee Ross Joyce. The midfielder then hooked forward a deft lob from 25 yards, that Andy Rafferty in Pools’ goal clutched above his head just in front of his goal-line.
At the other end, it took a perfectly-timed slide tackle from Burgess to deny Hassan from close range after Nathan Luscombe, a close-season signing from Sunderland, chested down. Luscombe then nodded just high and wide of Courtney’s left-hand-post when off balance from 16 yards.
The pressure continued and Poole drew a foul from Lyth on the very edge of the penalty area, just in from the left corner of the box. Jordan Richards’ inswinging free-kick struck Burgess’ outstretched boot, was parried by Courtney and the ex-Gretna gloveman then held on bravely after Hassan slid in.
Just as the Blues looked to have hung on for the opening half, the breakthrough finally arrived. Richards’ right-wing cross was headed back across goal by Luscombe for Larkin to neatly direct past Courtney with a flick of his head and find the roof of the net from 10 yards.
Local lad Chris Batchelor and striker Rob McDermid, trialling from Kirkbymoorside, replaced Alex White and Andy Campbell at the break and Town fired a warning shot four minutes into the restart.
Callum Martin, another ex-Pools signing for the Seasiders, powered a rising 25-yard effort inches over the top with Rafferty watching it all the way. Three minutes later and Courtney saved low down from Poole, but the lively wide man was not to be denied.
Within moments, Luscombe’s cross was headed onto the post by Larkin and despite point-blank saves from Hassan and Poole, the latter reacted quickest to the loose ball fourth time around to beat the unlucky Courtney.
On the hour, Marshall’s header was held comfortably by Rafferty and soon after, his opposite number Courtney made way for youngster Matt Calvert, who represented Morecambe’s second string last season.
Lyth then blocked Luscombe’s drive on the turn, before Calvert saved on the line from Josh Rowbotham and Town’s defence scrambled the ball clear.
In the final minute, Fylingthorpe’s Jake Faichney, on for Marshall and roared on by local fans, almost pulled one back. The 22-year-old striker controlled the ball well and forced a low save from sub keeper Liam Mooney with a first-time near-post drive.
Whitby Town: Courtney (Calvert 65), Lyth, White (Batchelor 46), Hassan, Burgess, Ellison, Martin, Leeson (Hodgson 72), Marshall (Faichney 75), A Campbell (McDermid 46), Robinson (c). Attendance: 169