TWO goals from Graeme Armstrong, another brace from Craig Farrell and a late Steven Snaith strike saw Whitby Town shock promotion-chasers Marine on Saturday and extend their unbeaten run to six games.
The Blues, who haven’t lost since November, are now within 11 points of the play-off places, despite staying 16th, in a closely-fought Evo-Stik Northern Premier.
Darren Williams thinks his side have finally gelled, after a nightmare start to the season.
Town’s player-manager told the Whitby Gazette: “It was going to take a little bit of time for people to settle in.
“The lads have been working harder and it’s starting to pay off.
“We’re coming together as a team, we’re getting closer and closer as a group of lads.”
Whitby began the campaign with six successive defeats, but Williams feels the momentum that’s put the Seasiders third in the NPL form table has given them new life.
“It breeds massive confidence - the atmosphere in the dressing room changes, the mood on the bus changes and we’re starting to see that now,” he said. “I know for a fact we have a very good side that should be in the top half of the table.”
Not that the visitors started in that manner, with Merseysiders Marine, unlucky not to lead early on, after an almighty scramble inside the the Blues’ box. Michael Ordish’s left-wing corner caused chaos, with the ball squirming out of a grounded Nick Liversedge’s gloves and eventually being hooked off the goal-line, before Danny Mitchley fired into the side netting.
It was against the run of play when Whitby went ahead on 26 minutes, as Farrell drove across the face of goal, from the right, and Armstrong slid home with his knees, from close range.
Within four minutes, it was 2-0 as Farrell lived up to his ‘Jonny on the spot’ nickname from assistant boss David Campbell.
Ashley Corker did well down the left wing and drilled towards the far post, where keeper Ryan McMahon saved with his legs from Nathan Mulligan, but there was Farrell, following up, to sidefoot into the roof of the net.
In a roller-coaster spell, the Mariners had a goal back, within four minutes.
Mitchley, playing the last game of his loan spell from Altrincham, smashed a tremendous 30-yard half-volley past a helpless Liversedge, completely out of nothing. The hosts stood firmly on top and should’ve levelled when Alex White was caught out of position, six minutes before the break, only for Matty Devine’s lung-busting run and driven left-wing cross to end with Nick Rogan blazing over, at the back post.
Deep into first-half injury time, the white hordes came again. This time, Arjun Purewal slid in well to deny Matty Brown and, from the corner, it took Liversedge’s full-length dive and his right-hand post to keep out Brown’s downward header.
Williams revealed: “Although we came in 2-1 up, I was disappointed with the first half.
“We hadn’t played as well as I thought we could and caused ourselves a few problems, hence the first goal.
“I did say to the lads ‘we have to go out and start the second half in the right manner. We can’t just go gung ho- be nice and solid. Make sure, when we attack, we go for the cut-throat.’
“I think we did that.”
Two minutes after the restart, Town hit the jugular.
Another terrific Corker run ended with a slide-rule ball for Armstrong to draw McMahon and slot low to his left, with the keeper’s outstretched hand only helping the ball into the net.
Not to be outdone, Farrell soon had his brace and Whitby’s fourth. Brown clumsily barged the ex-Spartan to the ground, on the edge of the area and he took full revenge, also beating McMahon low to his left and again, the home skipper’s touch wasn’t enough to stop the ball crossing the line.
At 4-1 up, you’d think the deed was done, even with almost 40 minutes left.
But the hosts conjured up memories of the 5-5 draw between the sides in 2002, when they quickly blasted a second. Rogan made some amends for his earlier miss by forcing the ball under Liversedge from 20 yards.
Williams was less than impressed: “We got sloppy and ahead of ourselves.
“I think everybody took their foot off the pedal and did things we don’t normally do, there were mistakes that shouldn’t have happened.”
Rogan then went down, after being grabbed around the waist by Liversedge. The pint-sized frontman had intercepted a stray backpass from Purewal, but referee Mr Powell saw no problem with the challenge.
Shane Henry, laid up in midweek with a skin allergy, replaced the out-of-sorts Mulligan on 73 minutes.
The Seasiders’ leading goalscorer hasn’t netted from open play in 10 matches.
Son after Danny Grannon nodded wide, Marine manager Kevin Lynch threw on strikers Andy Fowler and Karl Noon for the remaining 12 minutes, though all the hosts had to show, late on, was Mitchley’s speculative mis-kick wide.
It was, instead, Whitby substitute Steven Snaith who settled the match, four minutes from time. Snaith had only replaced Armstrong two minutes earlier, but after beating two players down the right, the former Hartlepool marksman cut inside and shocked McMahon with a driven 20-yard thunderbolt, that nestled inside the keeper’s right-hand post.
“It was a great goal,” reflected Williams.
“It’s not his favoured side, but he’s drove at the defenders and it was a fantastic strike.
“To be fair, he’s taken a lot of things on board - it’s a little bit frustrating for him, because he doesn’t play week in week out, but he has such a good attitude and great striking ability, as he showed.”
The 35-year old is in no doubt goals are the key to success in the NPL and his in-form forward pair’s instant success is no coincidence.
“It was in the back of my mind when we were trying to get Craig, a couple of weeks back, that they knew each other.
“I knew for a fact with the style Graeme Armstrong gives to us and the style that Craig has himself that it would be a very interesting and successful partnership.
“It’s starting to pay dividends and we also have Nathan Mulligan, who can score goals, and Steven Snaith waiting in the wings.
Williams concluded: “We’ve seen that if you do look dangerous going forward and you are scoring goals, it breeds confidence.
“You look at Marine, they were third, they put the ball in the back of the net, albeit they concede goals as well.”
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), White (Burgess 81), Purewal, McTiernan, Portas, Corker, Farrell, Armstrong (Snaith 84), Mulligan (Henry 73). Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK). Attendance: 355.
Marine 2 Whitby Town 5