Early strike sees off shot-shy Whitby

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Another early goal proved enough to see-off shot-shy Whitby, last Saturday, as the Seasiders fell to their third successive defeat.

Jack Higgins’ eighth minute strike was the winner and Blues boss Darren Williams admitted his side, as at Barwell seven days earlier, started sluggishly.

“After that we played very well, in three quarters of the pitch,” he added.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t produce anything in the final quarter, which killed us.”

Williams handed debuts to on-loan 17-year-old centre-half James King, from Bradford City and new forward signing, James Brown (27), formerly of Hartlepool United. Young marksman Matthew Waters dropped to the bench and defender Jamie Poole missed out completely.

Brown rose to fame when famous Pools supporter Jeff Stelling, from Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme, celebrated his goals by producing a singing doll of his soul icon namesake.

The skilful striker, who retired from the professional ranks earlier this season through injury, spent much of the match chasing back to pick up the ball, rather than awaiting passes from his team-mates closer to goal.

Instead, it was the hosts who began the better and big Dale Johnson saw a strong fourth-minute run end with a deflected rising shot over the bar. Soon after, an inswinging corner, on eight minutes, was met firmly by Jack Higgins’ stooping far-post header, that flew past a helpless Shane Bland.

But home celebrations had barely faded when the hosts were reduced to 10 men. Steven Snaith slid in aggressively on the Robins’ Ashley Young near the centre spot and after a fracas, Gary Gee was dismissed for throwing a punch.

Snaith was yellow-carded, which would prove crucial later, though despite their one-man deficit, the Greater Manchester club remained on top. Chris Baguley curled a 20-yard free-kick narrowly wide of Bland’s right-hand post, eight minutes before half-time, while Lee Mason replied with Paul Phillips forced to block at his near post.

Town emerged much brighter after the break, only to lose Snaith as he squared up to returning Ashton skipper Jay Gorton and both men were booked.

The Blues should also have found themselves two goals down when Bland spilled Johnson’s snapshot back into his path only to redeem himself with a stupendous point-blank save, from the rebound.

On the hour, Baguley brought a terrific tip over with a ferocious effort out of nothing.

A neat move, instigated by Dale Hopson, then saw Blues captain Mark Robinson head straight at Phillips after meeting a right-wing cross at the far post.

Bland then made another terrific parry, late on, as Johnson’s drilled effort bounced up from under the keeper’s body and over the bar.

Williams was bemused and disappointed by Snaith’s sending off, claiming referee Richard Woodward “buckled under pressure”.

“He evened out the numbers,” Williams told the Whitby Gazette.

“Steven Snaith was fouled before that, which resulted in players facing up, but no contact was made, so I don’t know why he’s produced a second yellow card.”

“It was a chest-to-chest stand off against each other, there was no contact where you would throw around yellow or red cards.”

Ashton rise to sixth with this victory, while 14th-placed Town sit within eight points of both the play-off places and relegation trapdoor.

Whitby Town: Bland, Shepherd, Robinson(c), Hassan, King, McTiernan, Doran (Clarkson 59), Hopson, J Brown (Waters 73), Snaith, Mason (M Brown 76). Subs not used: Gardner, Williams.

Blues man of the match: Shane Bland

Attendance: 152.

Ashton Utd 1 Whitby Town 0