Whitby Town still require a maximum of two points to definitely avoid relegation as their hosts dramatically their own Premier Division status with two late goals last night.
The bottom half battle was delayed by ten minutes after tailbacks on the M6 and Whitby were forced to reshuffle with a combination of work commitments and injury keeping out Richard Pell, Lee Mason and James Brown.
Steven Snaith and Jamie Clarke both started up front with Liam Shepherd returning on the left wing.
This arrangement lasted all of two minutes when Kevin Burgess fell awkwardly and appeared to suffer a knee injury.
Burgess was replaced by young winger Charlie Raby, with Shepherd dropping to right-back and Ibby Hassan taking Burgess’ centre-half role.
Raby’s pinpoint left-wing cross was headed straight at Terry Smith from 18 yards by Clarke, while at the other end, Hassan almost beat his own goalkeeper after a diving header back across goal from Nantwich’s left-wing cross bounced past Shane Bland’s post, on ten minutes.
Soon after, the ex-Middlersbrough gloveman saved with his legs from Liam Shotton’s angled right-edge of the box drive.
Bland then pushed clear at the near post from the towering Matt Bailey’s downward header.
The Seasiders were under the cosh enough when Burgess’ centre-back partner Lee Bullock had to limp off with a leg problem of his own midway through the first half.
Mason and Pell were named on the bench in their absence, so player-boss Darren Williams –better suited to full-back himself – was the last outfield player left so slotted in next to Hassan.
Seconds later, Whitby broke with a three on one, as Matty Waters raced clear before laying off for Snaith, who fired a low shot straight at keeper Terry Smith.
PJ Hudson forced Bland to touch around his right-hand post after good work from the diminutive Sean Cooke, who has haunted Whitby in the past with his efforts from distance, then Clarke turned and slammed just wide of Smith’s right-hand post.
The Blues continued to play on the break and took advantage of a Smith howler to go in at half-time ahead.
Three minutes before the interval, the ex-Oldham stopper went to claim a right-wing corner, only succeeding in palming the ball down for Dale Hopson to drill home unmarked from six yards.
Bailey headed a great chance wide in injury time, with Shepherd blocking bravely as Whitby clung on.
The second half opened with the hosts swapping Shotton for Mark Winslade up front.
Within six minutes of his introduction, Winslade hammered a low drive into the side netting. Bland then touched wide Matty Kosylo’s goalbound 25-yard free-kick low to his right.
Centre back Bailey was sent up front by Nantwich manager Phil Parkinson and the move paid dividends nine minutes from time. Bland called for a deep cross towards the beanpole defender, missing out as Bailey nodded against the bar and second substitute Steve Jones, on for Hudson, turned the ball across the face of goal and inside Bland’s right-hand post.
Scenting blood, the men in green surged forward and two minutes later, Winslade beat Bland to a loose ball only to find the outside of a post.
An almighty scramble in the Blues box then broke Whitby hearts as block after block were finally superceded by Ben Harrison, another big defender staying upfield, sticking out his right leg and diverting home a left-wing cross, with just four minutes remaining.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess (Raby 2), Bullock (Williams 23), McTiernan, Shepherd, Hopson, Clarke, Snaith, Waters. Subs not used: Pell, Mason, Campbell (GK).
Nantwich Town 2 Whitby Town 1