Whitby skipper forces late point in fightback

Whitby Town skipper Mark Robinson, pictured here bandaged up against Matlock, struck a late equaliser in the Blues' next game at Halesowen'picture: Brian Murfield
Whitby Town skipper Mark Robinson, pictured here bandaged up against Matlock, struck a late equaliser in the Blues' next game at Halesowen'picture: Brian Murfield
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Whitby Town captain Mark Robinson made up for glancing in an own goal on Saturday by later burying a last-minute equaliser - the Seasiders’ second late act in three days.

It was Whitby’s first-ever visit to the West Midlands outfit, a near-400-mile round trip and one taken with several players missing.

Player-manager Darren Williams made three changes from the team that drew 1-1 with Matlock as injured striker James Brown dropped to the bench with centre-half Lee Bullock and midfielder Dale Hopson missing out altogether with knocks.

In came Lee Mason for Hopson and Rob Nolan up front, with big defender Richard Pell in for Bullock at the back.

Despite all the changes and a bench with an average age above 37, the visitors led when Lee Mason’s left wing free-kick found Dave McTiernan who turned Curtis Tilt neatly then fired home from the edge of the box, beating Matthew Sargeant low to his right.

The two sides battled out an uninspiring stalemate just two weeks earlier at the Turnbull Ground, but it took just three minutes to break the deadlock this time around, with McTiernan notching his eleventh of the season.

At the other end, overlapping left-back Aaron Griffiths unleashed a powerful warning shot, from distance, that flew narrowly over the crossbar.

Mason’s free-kick was glanced narrowly wide by Matthew Waters before Halesowen levelled matters in controversial fashion.

“Their first goal went out of play before they scored.”

Williams insisted and certainly his players thought so as some stopped before Aaron Daniels’ 29th-minute left-wing cross was headed in by ex-Coventry City striker Iyseden Christie.

The hosts dominated the remainder of the half on a dry, bobbly surface.

Christie blazed over from 20 yards before Daniels beat the offside trap to go one-on-one with Whitby keeper Shane Bland before inexplicably driving wide.

The pacey frontman then screwed into the side netting of Bland’s left-hand post from six yards, with seven minutes of the half remaining.

Even with that early pressure, few would have predicted the carnage to follow as Williams’ men conceded twice in two minutes, with the second half just six minutes old.

“It was a poor start to the second half and sloppy defending,” the Blues boss fumed.

First Bland parried Daniels’ fiery shot from the left edge of the penalty shot, only for Thomas Tonks to follow up unmarked to steer home the rebound.

Then a freak goal when Griffiths danced along the byline, after cutting in off the left flank, and drilled across the six yard box where the ball looped up off Pell’s boot, striking Robinson on the head and ballooning into the net as Bland, behind him, came to collect.

Williams threw on big Jamie Clarke, for Nolan, with an hour gone, for his third spell with WTFC – at the age of 41 – his quickfire 10 goals helped the club keep their NPL Premier Division status in 2012.

Within five minutes though it was youngster Waters who powered a goal-bound 25-yard free-kick that Sargeant superbly kept out of the top corner at full stretch.

Pell then headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner. Another Robinson header almost let the hosts in, seconds later, but Bland clutched low from Daniels’ week effort.

In a move that worked well to grab an injury time point with ten men three days earlier, Williams pushed Pell up front as the visitors went 3-4-3.

Snaith slotted in behind the 6’5” centre half and Clarke, who tamely scooped wide off balance on 68 minutes.

The Seasiders’ onslaught continued and they were back in the game nine minutes from time when another left-wing cross, this time from Robinson, was headed down by Clarke for Snaith to swivel and strike low past Sargeant from six yards.

Bland denied Daniels from 18 yards before Mason chested down but hammered over the top from 25.

Whitby weren’t to be denied though and it was Robinson, who had darted to collect the ball after the second goal, making up for his earlier error. Mason’s deep free-kick was headed out only as far as the skipper who unleashed a beautiful low half-volley, from the left edge of the box, through a ruck of players, and placed perfectly between Sargeant and his left-hand post.

Williams concluded: “It was great spirit to fight back for a point after we went for it, having only one fit [outfield] player on the bench.”

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess, Pell, McTiernan, Waters, Shepherd, Snaith, Nolan (Clarke 60), Mason. Subs not used: J Brown, Bullock, Williams, Campbell (GK).

Attendance: 411.

Halesowen 3 Whitby Town 3