Whitby Town back in action after fortnight

Whitby's Ibby Hassan on the ball
Whitby's Ibby Hassan on the ball

On the eve of their return to action this Saturday (Feb 15), as rivals Rushall Olympic visit the Turnbull Ground, Whitby Town boss Darren Williams hopes to keep all eyes on his club.

The Blues player-manager hopes that goalkeeper Shane Bland’s move to the USA will draw attention to the Seasiders, who are just three points away from a play-off place.

“We’re not a club to hold players back,” he told the Whitby Gazette.

“Hopefully it’ll open up people’s eyes and the club might get some recognition and someone might take some interest and invest.”

Former Middlesbrough keeper Bland (19) will join Savannah Bees, a Georgia college side, on a four-year scholarship at the end of the season.

Williams believes it could help him recruit future players, with Bland’s predecessor Nick Liversedge joining Championship Burnley, last May.

“I think it’s a good talking block,” Williams revealed.

“I can say to players - look at Nick Liversedge, look at Shane Bland. They’ve dropped down from higher levels and got back up.

“It’s nice to see people progress. It’s an opportunity for the lad and we wish him all the best. Now he needs to knuckle down until the end of the season when we can have a proper send-off for him.”

The former Sunderland star is hoping that’ll be after a successful play-off final, but there’s still work to be done if the eighth-placed Blues are to make the top-five cut.

“I can see us going forward gradually,” Williams claims.

“We’ve a small squad and not one of the biggest budgets but I’m more than happy with the lads I’ve got.”

That’s understandable as the Blues look to extend an eleven-match unbeaten run against a Rushall side who may have slipped to 11th, but hold a number of games in hand and held Town to a goal-less draw last month.

“We learned a lot from that game,” said Williams.

“Being at home on a better pitch should suit us better, it’s important we don’t get tied up in how they play.”

The West Midlands outfit are known for their physical style, with a forward line led by giant former Football League frontman Dele Adebola (38).

Bland was instrumental in securing one of 11 clean sheets this season, when the sides met five weeks ago.

Unfortunately, it could be draws that deny Town their coveted play-off place. “The lads have done very well but we’ve drawn some games that we shouldn’t have,” Williams conceded.

“If we’d have won a few more, we wouldn’t have been far away from the top of the league. The draws have been our stumbling block, but then last season, we might have lost those matches.”

The Town chief is also insistent that the Blues’ two-week lay-off, due to the weather and a rearranged fixture, has done them more good than harm.

“We’ve trained midweek and Saturday. It was disappointing to break up the run of games but it’s done a few of us good.”

Defender Kev Burgess is back in contention after serving a two-match suspension.

Kick-off at the Turnbull Ground tomorrow is 3pm.