Whitby Town slipped to third from bottom of the Evo-Stik Premier Division after a 3-2 defeat at Buxton on Saturday.
A late rally wasn’t enough to extend the Seasiders’ four-match unbeaten run, as they were made to pay for a poor first-half showing in the Peak District.
Boss Chris Hardy made two enforced changes from the side that had fought out a fourth successive clean sheet at promotion-chasers Salford City, seven days earlier.
Kieran Weledji was unavailable and Dale Hopson injured, so in came centre-half and assistant boss Lee Bullock with ex-Middlesbrough frontman Matty Waters selected to sit just behind the strikers.
But it was Buxton’s attacking players who dominated from the start, with Shane Bland forced to parry Spencer Harris’ 20-yard hit before skipper Mark Robinson quickly cleared the rebound, on four minutes.
Seconds later, Harris slammed goalwards from similar range and Whitby’s stopper was forced to push away spectacularly to his left. However, the onslaught was constant and the hosts deservedly led inside eight minutes.
It was tricky ex-Town midfielder Niall Doran who popped up on the left and dinked a neat little ball into the visitors’ box which was swept home, on the turn, from six yards, by Bradley Barraclough.
His strike partner, Ash Worsfold, should then have doubled the Bucks’ advantage, before the quarter hour, when Robinson and Jamie Poole allowed the number 10 to get between them, only for him to smash across goal and wide of Bland’s right-hand post, when one-on-one.
The Seasiders did hit the back of the net with their first proper attack, on 18 minutes when Callum Martin nipped infield and strode forward, playing a neat ball into Mikey Roberts, who stroked past goalkeeper Tom Stewart, only to be halted by an offside flag.
That chance gone, the Buxton cavalry charge restarted and they promptly made it 2-0 on the half-hour. Alex Wiles’ inswinging corner, from the left, found Harris, who was unmarked as Bullock lost his footing and directed a free far-post header into the roof of the net.
Two minutes later, Worsfold teed up Barraclough, who forced a tremendous reaction block from Bland at his right-hand post, with the loose ball striking Poole, which allowed Town’s number one to gather.
Bad news followed for Whitby as Bullock’s repeated tackles on Worsfold ended with the veteran staying down and eventually having to limp off with a nasty-looking knee injury which may have ended his season.
On the field, Richard Pell was his replacement in Town’s three-man back line, and his first job was to watch Harris curl the resulting free-kick just over.
Town were almost three down going into the break as Bland did well to parry Nicky Walker’s ferocious 20-yarder, with the rebound hitting onrushing Buxton captain Greg Young on the knee and looping over the top.
Seconds later, a mis-hit left-wing corner was deflected goalwards and the young keeper had to stoop slightly before pushing the ball over the bar.
Whitby arrived for the second half a good five minutes before their hosts, clearly on the back of a blast from Hardy, and they looked more purposeful within two minutes of the restart.
Roberts took on Joel Bembo-Leta on the right-edge of the Buxton penalty area but fired high over the top after delaying his eventual shot.
Another injury blow then hit Hardy’s boys as McTiernan’s hamstring problem, picked up at Salford, returned and he was handed ice by physio Paul Scott as he left the field to be replaced by teenage striker, Tyler Scarth, on 49 minutes.
Eighteen-year-old Scarth, signed on a youth loan, for the rest of the season, from Accrington Stanley, went up front with Roberts and Anthony Hume, while Waters dropped back into McTiernan’s holding role, alongside Adam Gell.
Bland saved with his legs from Barraclough at his left-hand post, before Whitby raced to the other end and Roberts forced Stewart to hold well low to his left from distance, and within seconds, unleashed a low drive, from the edge of the D, that the keeper pushed around his left-hand post, at full stretch. There was a chance a minute as play lurched to the other box where the diminutive Doran grazed the crossbar with a flat shot from the opposite byline.
Bland stayed busy with saves from Harris’ 25-yard piledriver and then Doran and Barraclough, while Roberts hammered too high from 20 yards.
The impressive floppy-haired Walker was pulling the strings in midfield and forced Bland to save with a strong 68th-minute effort before going one better, 14 minutes from time.
It was the industrious Worsfold who cut in from the right, then back from the byline, for Walker to run on and thunder low past Bland, from just inside the penalty area, for 3-0.
Roberts almost replied within seconds as he shot across goal, from the left-edge of the box, with a slight deflection taking the ball inches wide of Stewart’s left-hand post.
One last throw of the dice from Hardy saw Waters make way for ex-Hartlepool United man Scott Howes. The versatile left-sided defender was employed wide on the right as Martin moved infield to join Gell.
Within seconds, it was 3-1 as Roberts twisted and turned on the edge of the box before guiding the ball low between Stewart and his right-hand post.
It was soon clear that Buxton had conceded late on a number of occasions, recently, including the previous Thursday night, when they surrendered a 2-1 lead to go down 3-2 against Town’s rivals Marine and at the Turnbull Ground, following a late penalty.
Then Martin found space to advance towards the D, with two minutes left and tried a speculative shot that Stewart seemed to misjudge at a kind height as it went in off his left-hand post.
With 3-2 again the scoreline, nervy Buxton conceded a last-minute free-kick as Bembo-Leta upended Roberts 12 yards out, just to the left of their penalty area.
Town’s number 11 dusted himself off and surprised Stewart as he went for goal and skimmed the crossbar with a lively strike, but with that chance went the Blues’ hopes of grabbing a point.