Whitby make it eight unbeaten

Graeme Armstrong scores Whitby's second goal against Skelmersdale'picture: Brian Murfield
Graeme Armstrong scores Whitby's second goal against Skelmersdale'picture: Brian Murfield

Whitby Town dropped to ninth on Saturday after being pegged back from 2-0 up for the fourth time this season - but still made it eight games unbeaten.

However, it took two bullets from league leaders Skelmersdale United to rescue a point, in a memorable encounter, at the Turnbull Ground.

A muddy Graeme Armstrong applauds the Whitby Town supporters'picture: Brian Murfield

A muddy Graeme Armstrong applauds the Whitby Town supporters'picture: Brian Murfield

Play-off-chasing Town, December’s club of the month, remain just two points off the top four despite their 12th league draw of the season.

Blues player-boss Darren Williams made one change from the side that started the 1-1 New Year’s Day draw at Frickley Athletic. Fit-again centre-half Richard Pell returned to the Seasiders’ line-up as fellow defender Kev Burgess missed out with an injury of his own.

In-form Town, who were presented with the Evo-Stik NPL Premier’s Club of the Month award for December pre-match, were quick out of the blocks and deservedly led inside eight minutes. Some neat interplay saw Tom Portas play in Steven Snaith, with the ex-Hartlepool United striker drilling early past Zac Hibbert from 12 yards.

At the other end, Ashley Dunn cut in from the right flank but fired straight at Shane Bland, while Neil Prince’s tame effort was also easily clutched by the former Middlesbrough keeper.

Steven Snaith fires Whitby in front against Skelmersdale'picture: Brian Murfield

Steven Snaith fires Whitby in front against Skelmersdale'picture: Brian Murfield

Adam Rundle then came close to doubling the Blues’ advantage on the half hour as he made room after moving in off the left wing and forced Hibbert to save spectacularly low to his right, at the second attempt.

Snaith then drove over the top after great work from Rundle, only for the offside flag to make the shot invalid either way and Dave McTiernan, who made his 300th appearance for the Blues at Frickley, fired a tame 25-yard effort wide.

The second half opened with the Seasiders finally finding that elusive second goal as Mark Robinson’s deep left-wing cross was directed past Hibbert from close range, courtesy of Graeme Armstrong’s stooping header.

Crucially, however, Tommy Lawson’s side hit back within two minutes as Adam Morning’s shot was charged down on the edge of the box and the loose ball was hammered into the roof of the net by overlapping left-back Tom Ince.

Whitby remonstrate with the referee after a challenge'picture: Brian Murfield

Whitby remonstrate with the referee after a challenge'picture: Brian Murfield

Bland denied Jack Laird at his near post, with Armstrong looking fortunate to escape the offside flag before curling wide for Whitby.

Another brave defensive block kept out Dunn’s angled left-wing drive, but soon after, Skem’s top-scorer Dean Astbury was on hand to curl home his 15th NPL strike of the season, from 20 yards, to level the scores.

Hibbert got down well to keep out another ferocious Rundle punt, before Astbury clipped over after a long run goalwards and Whitby’s Richard Pell, up from the back, headed across goal but wide, from Lee Mason’s left-wing corner.

Armstrong then took a long ball down beautifully before almost catching Hibbert out with a deft 18-yard lob and Town also came close in the final two minutes. Substitute Craig Farrell’s explosive 25-yard free-kick was just about kept out by Hibbert, with the ex-Blyth frontman then catching the gloveman out of his net but his ball infield was cleared by a frantic away backline.

Late on, Armstrong was denied a penalty after going down under pressure from Ken Strickland.

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock, Pell, McTiernan, Portas (Henry 73), Mason, Armstrong, Snaith (Farrell 68), Rundle (Mulligan 81). Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK).

Skelmersdale United: Hibbert, Strickland, Ince, Hardwick (c), Wylie, Dunn, Hughes, Prince, Astbury, Laird (O’Rielly 90), Morning (Peet 76). Subs not used: Holden, Greene, Flood.

Attendance: 268

Match Sponsor: Captain Cook’s Haven, Larpool Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4NE. Tel: 601396.

Web: www.captaincookshaven.co.uk

Matchball Sponsor: The Royal Hotel, West Cliff, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3HA. Tel: 602234.

Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Dave McTiernan