Only a brilliant injury-time save kept out Craig Farrell’s goalbound free-kick and denied Whitby Town all three points against Trafford, on Saturday.
Ross Gardner’s spectacular 25-yard drive had earlier cancelled out Trafford’s opening goal, from NPL Premier top scorer Shelton Payne.
Town keeper Shane Bland told the Whitby Gazette: “Faz has hit it really well – he was due a free-kick like that- unfortunately it hasn’t gone in. It was a fantastic save.
“It feels like a loss, it’s very disappointing to come out with a draw after dominating the game,” he added.
Blues player-boss Darren Williams made two changes – both in midfield– from the side that drew 0-0 with Workington three days earlier. Lee Mason missed out with work commitments and Gardner dropped to the bench as fit-again Dale Hopson and in-form Matty Brown were recalled.
Town started brightly with Brown diverting Liam Shepherd’s low drive inches wide on three minutes and Steven Snaith curling narrowly wide of Robertson’s left-hand post from the edge of the box.
The Blues’ Mancunian visitors held them 3-3 when the sides met last month and they came close after a good move saw Payne’s 18-yard snapshot charged down bravely by Lee Bullock. Payne was not to be denied, however, on 21 minutes.
With Ibby Hassan stranded upfield, Payne beat the covering Richard Pell down the left and cut inside before slotting between Bland and his far post.
Matthew Waters fired straight at Robertson when well placed, seconds later, before Trafford enjoyed their best spell midway through the first half. Successive efforts from Payne and Michael Oates were blocked before skipper Martyn Andrews brought a full-length push wide by Bland, who smothered Tom Schofield’s shot, moments later.
Worse for Whitby followed as Pell hobbled off with a hamstring injury and Shepherd was forced to drop in at right-back as Hassan moved to the centre and Gardner was introduced with 12 minutes of the first half still remaining.
Early in the second period, Andrew Smart’s deep free-kick narrowly evaded Oates at the far post, before Whitby found the net at the other end.
Waters nodded down Hopson’s cross for Snaith to tap home, only for the offside flag to rescue the visitors.
Bland then saved at his near post from Oates, Town’s two-goal tormentor in the teams’ original clash, before Gardner smashed home the equaliser on 68 minutes.
Hopson found the former Spennymoor midfielder who slammed in off the underside of the crossbar, with Brown following up to make sure from the rebound.
Town began to believe in themselves, pushed on and Williams felt they should have had the lead 15 minutes from time when Waters dummied Brown’s through ball and Snaith again found the net, only to be stopped in his tracks by another offside flag.
“I didn’t think it was off”, insisted Town’s player-manager.
“The first one maybe but I think the second one was well onside. I think he timed his run very well.”
Williams then introduced Farrell for Waters up front and the ex-Blyth marksman nearly struck within three minutes.
It was an audacious turn from Brown that took him past two defenders on the left flank before squaring for Farrell to bring a low save from Robertson.
With five minutes left, Dave McTiernan turned wide from 12 yards after good work from Brown and Snaith, with Brown then trying a shot of his own, which took a deflection, but was pushed wide by Robertson.
Two minutes from time, a drilled effort from Hopson flew inches wide of the keeper’s left-hand post before Farrell’s ferocious last-gasp free-kick was somehow pushed over the bar by the ex-Chorley gloveman.
Shepherd was as shocked as anyone: “I cannot believe he’s saved that,” he said.
“He’s pulled it out of nowhere, you’ve got to hand it to the keeper.
“It was an unbelievable save - it’s like they were destined to get a point.”
Williams agreed: “I thought it was in- he struck it so cleanly - the keeper’s done fantastic to get across and keep it out, I thought it was in the corner.”
The former Sunderland star had mixed feelings after the game, unimpressed with attitudes when conceding the first goal but delighted with a patched-up side in the second half.
“To be caught out like we were- a couple of lads said the transition of play to the goal was too quick- but I disagreed, we could’ve defended better,” he said.
“The goal took the wind out of our sails but, in the second half, it’s all credit to the lads.
“Ibby’s gone into centre half, which he hasn’t played in a while, and done fantastically well.
“Shep’s also done very well-it’s good to be able to adapt as our squad’s as thin as tracing paper at the moment.”
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock, Pell (Gardner 33), McTiernan, Brown, Hopson, Waters (Farrell 80), Snaith, Shepherd. Subs not used: Williams, Burgess, Campbell (GK).
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Ibby Hassan
Whitby Town 1 Trafford 1