“A great win well deserved” was the verdict of Blues boss Darren Williams after Town claimed their first three points of the new campaign, in Derbyshire, on Saturday.
With hosts Belper also without a win so far, something had to give and the Seasiders triumphed thanks to a goal in each half.
“The lads worked hard and played well for 90 minutes.” said Williams, who had been critical of his sides inability to perform for long periods of a match.
“This should lift confidence and team morale for our coming games.” he added.
Player-manager Williams named an unchanged starting eleven following Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at Trafford, though the subs bench was strengthened by the additions of frontman Matty Waters and midfielder Lee Mason.
However, it was the home side, newly promoted from the Evo-Stik NPL Division One South, who showed first with Rob Stevenson cutting in off the left flank and forcing Shane Bland to save at his near post, then moments later, Colin Marrison’s powerful 18-yard effort brought an acrobatic tip over from the Blues glove-man.
At the other end, Whitby should have led with their first chance, on 12 minutes, as Dale Hopson got down the right flank and laid off for Matty Brown, who cut back from the byline, only for Craig Farrell to clip an angled shot inches wide of keeper James Martin’s right-hand post.
Belper skipper Steve Warne brought another good stop from Bland, who pushed wide the former Matlock man’s left-edge of the area shot, as it threatened to sneak inside the bottom-left corner. Marrison then curled narrowly over the top after collecting Evan Garnett’s flick on.
Blues almost broke the deadlock on 34 minutes when Steven Snaith headed on for Hopson to go clear, but Martin blocked well at the ex-Huddersfield star’s feet one-on-one. The Seasiders then looked to have won a penalty six minutes before half-time as Lee Thompson slid through the back of Shepherd as he bore down on goal, six yards out, but referee Marc Perry simply awarded a corner, despite animated protests.
Amid increasing Whitby pressure, it was Peter Duffield’s men who had the ball in the net, seconds later. Jon Froggatt played in Garnett, who poked high past Bland from the edge of the penalty area, only for the linesman’s offside flag to rescue the Blues.
It was naive play from the Belper forwards and they were made to pay as Farrell struck, two minutes before half-time. The rejuvenated former Blyth frontman sped forward, 12 yards from goal and as Dan White challenged, his shot took a huge deflection to wrong-foot Martin, who flopped to his left.
If the hosts considered themselves unfortunate to be behind at the break, they could have no complaints in the second half as the Blues dominated. Shepherd’s shot from the edge of the box lacked power two minutes into the restart as Martin clutched, then Hopson’s left-wing corner was side-footed back across goal by Farrell and Snaith’s goal-bound effort was poked off the line.
On the hour, Ibby Hassan rose well from a right-wing corner to deflect Froggatt’s dangerous 18-yard header inches over the Blues bar. The visitors then settled matters when a lofted free-kick was fumbled by Martin and the unlikely figure of Richard Pell had an eternity to walk home the loose ball.
Waters, on for Farrell, came close with a first-time effort, while Williams also introduced Mason for Hopson and with ten minutes remaining, Ross Gardner replaced Brown.
Mason poked into the side netting after finding himself through on goal, on the left edge of the six-yard box, while Belper sub Chris Jones sliced over a wayward shot from distance, three minutes from time.
The First Division South play-off winners could have brought a grandstand finish, though, with just a minute remaining. Froggatt looked odds on to score when left one-on-one with Bland, but the ex-Boro youngster was out quickly to block brilliantly, securing his first clean sheet of the season and the Blues’ first win.