Depleted Blues suffer fresh play-off setback

Fleetwood Town 3

Whitby Town 1

Despite once again leading at half-time, three goals in 28 second half minutes sunk Whitby on their first-ever visit to Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium on Saturday.

Manager Lee Nogan was again forced to make changes, with three different starters from the side which drew 0-0 with Fleetwood at the Turnbull Ground in midweek.

Nogan, despite suffering from illness, had to name himself just to fill the team-sheet, which also included returning goalkeeper Dave Campbell on the bench.

In came David McTiernan, Karl Richards and Stephen Thomas, as midfield newcomer Byron Webster – also registered to Harrogate Town – returned to the Conference North side with injured duo Tom Raw and James Drinkall missing out.

However despite their problems, the visitors led amid the strong west coast breeze inside two minutes.

Richards raced down the left flank and forced his way inside the Fleetwood six- yard box, bringing a good parry from keeper Danny Hurst at the near post.

Richards’ follow-up was deflected into the path of overlapping right-back Tom Reid, who slotted home only his second goal for the club from point-blank range.

The home side threatened on nine minutes when a free-kick swung over from the left was nodded over from close range by Ricky Mercer.

But Whitby’s bright start continued and they should’ve doubled their lead seconds later. Great hold-up play by Danny Brunskill saw Richards released again and the former Hartlepool man poked through for McTiernan on the edge of the area to fire over the top via the bar.

Fleetwood nearly answered back when skipper Ged Fitzgerald saw his 20-yard drive charged down by McTiernan, helping out at the other end.

Ex-Southport winger Fitzgerald then missed a gilt-edged chance moments later.

Whitby goalkeeper Arran Reid misjudged a right-wing cross, allowing the ball to loop over his head, but the unmarked Fleetwood captain arriving behind him somehow headed against the crossbar six yards out.

As the home side enjoyed their best spell of the match so far, a 28th minute ball from the left was drilled across the Whitby box with Sean Gray’s diving header deflected wide.

A succession of corners followed with keeper Reid and left-back Alex Janes both requiring treatment after seperate aerial challenges.

The second half opened with Phil Brumwell forcing a fine tip-over from Hurst after unleashing a ferocious 20-yard strike.

The resulting corner was played straight out to Brumwell who this time saw his shot charged down by a defender and the danger cleared.

At the other end, the vocal Mercer signalled the hosts’ intentions nodding straight at Reid from a right-wing corner. And seconds later, the men in red were level when Phil Charnock’s neat diagonal ball picked out substitute Phil Denney who fired across Reid and inside the far post from a difficult angle.

The north west side were now dominant, a left-wing corner was cleared off the line by a Whitby defender, but the ball kept coming back and the Blues were architects of their own downfall.

Barely three minutes after conceding the equaliser, a hopeful long ball into the visitors’ box was chested down by on-loan teenager Wayne Clarke straight into the path of Andy Bell, who needed no invitation to plant the ball past Reid from close range for 2-1.

Janes then limped off with Tom Claisse his replacement at left-back on 56 minutes. Moments later, more Fleetwood pressure culminated in Denney blasting over from the edge of the Whitby box.

The visitors then enjoyed their best spell of the match. Richards held the ball up well before releasing Brunskill, who

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