WHITBY Town are still looking for their first home win this season after a controversial equaliser from Matlock on Saturday, writes Andrew Snaith.
Chris Bettney’s quickly-taken free-kick while Dave Campbell was organising his wall prevented a first three points at the Turnbull Ground for Tommy Cassidy’s men.
The Whitby manager made two changes from the side that defeated Parkgate 3-1 in the FA Cup. Strikeforce Jake Faichney and Matty Tymon dropped to the bench, while there were debuts for midfielder Lewis Hawkins and forward Callum Hassan, both teenagers signed on temporary deals from League One Hartlepool United. Andy Campbell - yet to score this season - was left out of the Blues’ 16-man squad altogether.
The new-look Seasiders settled quickly and took the lead inside four minutes when Callum Martin’s right-wing cross was nodded home by Sam Hodgson - the former Gateshead youngster’s second goal in as many games.
Kris Bowler’s low drive, after a succession of blocks, then forced Campbell to save at the other end, moments later.
The powerfully built Hassan (18) came close for Whitby on 11 minutes, chesting down and firing across goal, on the turn, from a tight angle.
For the visitors, Ian Holmes’ soft-looking penalty claims were waved away, but the Gladiators weren’t to be denied and levelled just after the half-hour, following some quick thinking from Chris Bettney.
The former Retford winger was quickly in position after Darren Williams barged over Bowler just outside the box. And after consulting referee Neil Sharp, the ex-Sheffield United man curled the free-kick into the top corner as Campbell was stood to one side, still arranging his defensive wall.
Bettney shot just wide and Campbell was ready to catch an identical set piece from the same player within five minutes of his equaliser.
Mark Atkins’ side, who came into the game with just one defeat from their last ten outings, were enjoying their best spell of the game in the final 15 minutes of the half.
Campbell was quickly out of his goal on 40 minutes to halt right-back Micky Harcourt’s mazy run, the 40-year-old injuring himself after bravely diving at the defender’s feet.
The Derbyshire club continued to dominate and should have led seconds before the interval when skipper James Lukic headed wide, after being left unmarked six yards out, from a right-wing cross.
The Blues looked much brighter in the second half. On the hour, Callum Martin crossed from the right, Hassan and the impressive Lukic cancelled each other out in the centre and skipper Mark Robinson was left free to slice a far-post volley wide.
Sole-striker Hassan then flicked on for Hawkins to head over a left-wing ball four minutes later.
Tyeisse Nightingale’s ferocious volley from distance showed the away side were still a threat and Campbell looked ungainly as he held the ball on the first bounce.
But Whitby were now the stronger side and Cassidy was ready to sacrifice Hodgson - one of three central midfielders - for a second striker, with 14 minutes left. However, as the change was being prepared, Hawkins stayed down after a hefty challenge from Liam King near the touchline, King was booked and it was the lively debutant who made way for Faichney.
Within four minutes, Matlock keeper Jon Kennedy was lucky to see his parry from Robinson’s driven free-kick fall to Lukic who slid clear. Faichney then saw his angled drive deflected wide and the corner was nodded inches over, by the ever-solid Kev Burgess.
In the final minute, good interplay between Hassan and Faichney saw the latter poke a weak effort straight at Kennedy as Lukic got back to force the 22-year-old off-balance.
The Blues remain fourth-bottom after their sixth draw out of 11.
But the match didn’t reflect that 11-place chasm in the table according to Cassidy, who said: “It was hit and miss in many ways.
“I thought after the game that we just edged it, but we didn’t get the three points, which are vital.”
The former Newcastle United star admitted his tactics may have been to blame, but remained optimistic, adding: “When you play five across the middle, you give licence to three or four of them to get forward - probably, it didn’t work so much.
“I thought we didn’t hurt them enough in the first half- second half, we did a bit better, I suppose.
“The good thing is everyone’s enthusiastic, they’re energetic and that’s what I want to see.”
Whitby Town: D Campbell, Williams, Leeson, I Hassan, Burgess, McTiernan, Martin, Hawkins (Faichney 76), C Hassan, Hodgson, Robinson (c). Subs not used: Marron, White, Tymon, Courtney (GK).
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man Of The Match: Kev Burgess; attendance: 321.