Whitby Town earned a close 1-0 win over Matlock Town on Saturday afternoon, in blustery conditions at the Turnbull Ground. Paul Connolly takes us through what we learned from the victory.
1) Winning scrappy is as important as flowing football
What must be said, first and foremost, is that Whitby beat Matlock Town in a very ‘backs to the wall’ style performance.
Although Whitby looked solid in the first half, Matlock slowly grew into the game and showed signs of getting on the front foot, late in the opening period.
In the second half that theme continued and Matlock continued to push Whitby further back. Despite this though, Whitby continued to carve out occasional openings and managed to hit Matlock on the break to take the lead.
Undeterred, Matlock continued to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Whitby, despite the horrendous conditions.
The defending was excellent across the board from the Seasiders. Mark Robinson led the line perfectly, putting his body on the line to block everything heading goalwards.
Couple that with some fantastic Shane Bland saves and some more excellent last-ditch defending and you had the perfect example of a scrappy 1-0 win.
2) North Sea wind isn’t pleasant
“Winter is coming” is the motto of House Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’ and it was certainly applicable to Whitby on Saturday afternoon.
The perfect storm of a swirling North Sea wind, torrential rain and hailstone hit the Turnbull Ground in such a way that football was almost impossible.
But as the wind howled, and the rain lashed down, the two sides at least attempted to thrash out a game of football.
It wasn’t a classic, and perhaps more a chiropractor’s nightmare when trying to follow the ball in the air, but it was a credit to two sides hungry to carry on their charge for success.
Hopefully we don’t see too much more of that weather hit Whitby. The Turnbull Ground’s main stand can be a very unpleasant place when it does.
3) The Blues don’t look like losing
As has been said on numerous occasions, Whitby would have buckled in years gone by when faced with a side putting pressure on them, but not anymore.
In fact, not only did Whitby not look like conceding, but they just didn’t look like losing at all.
Even when under pressure or behind, there hasn’t been an occasion in a while when the Blues have looked like losing.
It’s a credit to Chris Hardy and his backroom staff, who have worked tirelessly on fitness levels and the 3-5-2 wing-back system. The results of that are clear: solid at the back, hard-working in the middle and dangerous at the top.
Those elements slot together in such a way that make Whitby hard to beat and break down from the first minute to the very last second of the game. A massive change from the side that consistently shipped late goals at this stage last season.
4) Whitby finally have strength in depth
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given last week’s performance by stand-in wing back Kieran Weledji, Callum Martin remained on the bench.
It’s a choice that just goes to show how much strength there is around Chris Hardy’s squad, with Martin being one of the stand-out performers so far this season.
The move to keep Weledji in the side comes as a warning shot to every player in the side. You might be the first name on the team sheet one week, but your place isn’t guaranteed after returning from injury or suspension.
If anything, it’s a positive message to send out. It gives players an incentive to fight for their place in the side every week. It makes players work and train harder to gain their place in the side.
Callum Martin will get back in the Whitby Town side at some point, especially with the attitude he shows on and off the pitch, but for now it may well be a waiting game for the wing-back.
5) The positive crowd noise is returning
After a period of crowd issues at the Turnbull Ground, involving smoke bombs, people on the pitch and fights in the stands, the positive atmosphere seems to be slowly returning to the Turnbull Ground.
306 were in attendance on Saturday afternoon, with a small but lively bunch occupying one corner of the Scratching Shed.
For 90 minutes, they continued to try and get an atmosphere going, singing through their usual Whitby Town repertoire of ‘Sea, Sea, Seasiders’ and songs about their neigbours down the coast.
A definite return to the good days of the singing without trouble and with a big crowd heading to Shaw Lane at the weekend, the club will be hoping it continues in a similar vein.