WHITBY Town player-manager Darren Williams admits he’s “feeling the pressure” after a fourth straight defeat, at fellow strugglers Ilkeston, on Saturday.
Williams told the Whitby Gazette that his players “need to start pulling their fingers out - it’s putting me under pressure.
“In football, there’s only one person goes and that’d be me.
“If we’ve got to start pointing the finger at players, then we’ll do that.
“At the end of the day, it’s my job on the line, not theirs.”
Town were missing injured centre-half duo Kevin Burgess and Alex White for the trip to Derbyshire.
Williams opted for two changes to the side that lost 3-1 to second-placed Ashton United, a week earlier.
He dropped himself and right-back Ashley Corker, who was sent-off against United, but wasn’t suspended for the Ilkeston clash. In came defender Craig James (30) and top-scorer Nathan Mulligan, who played out wide.
Despite a bright start from the visitors, the home side had the ball in the net first, with seven minutes gone. A cross from the left was headed down and forced home at the far post by Greg Tempest, only for referee Jamie Waters to disallow the strike for a foul on keeper Nick Liversedge.
Ilkeston began to dominate, slamming a warning shot across the face of goal, moments before they went ahead in the tenth minute.
Laurie Wilson, son of Sheffield United supremo Danny, went down rather easily around 20 yards from goal, enabling Joe Maguire to drill the resulting free-kick, to the right of a three-man wall, beating Liversedge at his right-hand post.
The lead was doubled, five minutes later, when a throw-in on the right found Curtis Thompson, who fired towards the near post, for Aaron Hooton to nip in and squeeze under Liversedge.
“As a team, we defended diabolically”, blasted Williams, after a series of one-twos between Thrower and Thompson that took Mulligan and Mark Robinson out of the game.
This was followed by Hooton getting ahead of Tom Portas, stood in no man’s land and his marker, to beat Liversedge, who appeared to have got something on the ball, but partially dived past it.
The Seasiders finally woke up a little towards the end of the half, with Mulligan flashing across goal after good work down the left and Portas racing clear before pulling back to the well-placed Shane Henry, who mis-kicked horribly.
Just a month earlier, Town had come back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 when the sides met in the FA Trophy, following an inspiring half-time Williams rant, and began the second half with similiar purpose on Saturday.
Craig Farrell fired first-time but narrowly wide from distance and Portas repeated the dose with a more-measured, 20-yard effort past Chris Martin’s right-hand post. Right-back Ibby Hassan, on a rare forward run, then pressed Martin into action with an unlikely 30-yard shot that the former Port Vale stopper held comfortably.
Arjun Purewal, Town’s loan defender from Darlington, then slid in superbly well at the other end, but the ball broke for lone striker Gary Ricketts to force Liversedge into a neat push around his left-hand post. The Robins kept up the pressure and from Tempest’s right-wing corner, Wilson headed on for Maguire to force past Liversedge, at the far post, with his knee.
Williams threw on Steven Snaith for Mulligan with half an hour remaining, also switching to three up front at the same time, while swapping James for Corker, at the back, minutes later.
It appeared to work as the Blues surged forward, eventually pulling a goal back on 75 minutes, when Farrell’s left-wing cross was struck against a nervous backline by Dave McTiernan and Purewal followed up to slam past Martin from 10 yards.
Michael Tait replaced Henry in midfield soon after, but the home side would have made it 4-1 if not for a terrific save from Liversedge to deny Ricketts one-on-one. Armstrong could’ve made for a nerve-jangling finale, with seven minutes remaining, the ex-Spartans striker ran onto a neat through ball, before smashing an angled drive into the side-netting from close range, instead of stroking across Martin.
The hosts almost struck again, three minutes from time, as holes were left at the back, only for Liversedge to rescue Town again, this time, tipping over brilliantly from Wilson’s 20-yard piledriver.
With a minute to go, in a rare moment of luck for the Blues, substitute Jack Watts somehow missed from point-blank range, with the goal gaping in front of him.
Williams lamented: “The bottom line is, we didn’t do what we did against Ashton, we went completely the opposite way, for some reason.
“You can’t solely put it down to the back four, as that’s not fair, it’s got to be from a team point of view - the old cliche is defend from the front. We win as a team, we lose as a team, unfortunately, the first half was more of a non-existent half for us, especially defensively.
“I thought, first half, we got bullied, I really do, we couldn’t stand up to the test.
“Speaking to their manager afterwards, he said they’d done away with playing football and were just going long ball nice and early - it’s pulled a couple of results out for them.”
However the 35-year-old Blues’ boss is not about to give up his playing principles and take his team route-one: “It’s not my style”, he said.
“I don’t think we have that type of team to do that, it’s fairly difficult, they had two big lads up front and they did it well, all credit to them. “At times, you have to be direct, but to do it full-scale for 90 minutes, it’s just not us and if we tried to do that, it wouldn’t have any real benefit. We’ll keep going because I believe in what we’re doing.”
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), James (Corker 63), Purewal, McTiernan, Portas, Henry (Tait 77), Armstrong, Farrell, Mulligan (Snaith 60). Subs not used: Williams, D Campbell (GK). Attendance: 563
Ilkeston 3 Whitby Town 1