Eleven unbeaten for in-form Whitby

Whitby's Ibby Hassan on the ball
Whitby's Ibby Hassan on the ball

Whitby Town remain just a single point from the play-off places after a comfortable win in South Yorkshire, on Saturday, extending their unbeaten run to 11 games.

“It’s always pleasing to score goals,” said Whitby Town player-manager Darren Williams.

Craig Farrell nets for Whitby at Stocksbridge'submitted picture

Craig Farrell nets for Whitby at Stocksbridge'submitted picture

“We’ve dealt with the conditions very well.” he added.

Struggling Stocksbridge were no match for Williams’ men who roared into a three-goal lead within 39 minutes.

In fact, the biggest threat to Town’s chances was the weather.

A huge downpour an hour before kick-off provoked a pitch inspection which was narrowly passed and frequent rain and hail showers blighted the match.

Williams, who last week spoke of a need to guard young players from burnout, made two changes from the side that beat FC United of Manchester 3-2, seven days earlier.

Striker Steven Snaith (19) and attacking midfielder Lee Mason (22) made way for Craig Farrell (31) and Nathan Mulligan (27) respectively.

Lee Bullock recovered after limping off with a pulled groin muscle against FC United, to retain his place, but fellow centre-half Kev Burgess, who Williams admitted was in contention for a starting place, missed out, as he began a two-match suspension for accumulating yellow cards.

“The two lads came in and did very well.

“It’s probably been frustrating for them and it was nice for them to be back involved,” Williams told the Whitby Gazette.

It was Mulligan’s first league start since the 4-3 loss at Nantwich in November- Town’s last defeat in the Evo-Stik NPL.

It was October since Farrell last began a league game for the Seasiders, though you wouldn’t have guessed from the start he made.

The ex-Blyth marksman almost broke the deadlock inside the opening five minutes.

His ferocious 30-yard swerving free-kick beat goalkeeper Ben Scott but crashed against the underside of the home crossbar.

Town didn’t have long to wait for their opening goal though and it was Mulligan who beat full-back Tom Cadzow down the Whitby left and crossed for Graeme Armstrong on ten minutes.

The Stocksbridge backline succeeded only in heading the ball high into the air, but inexplicably allowed Town’s top scorer to wait for it to drop in front of him and sidefoot past Scott from six yards.

Within seven minutes, Mulligan was at it again, tricking his way down the right flank this time and producing a pinpoint cross for Farrell to nod home at the far post.

Stocksbridge were limited to off-target potshots from distance, while Whitby could’ve added a third when Adam Rundle drilled across the face of goal but Armstrong skied over the bar from point-blank range.

But the Steels defence remained in generous mood and boobed again, six minutes before half-time.

Centre-half Nick Swirad slid one Farrell effort off the line, only for Scott to drill his attempted clearance against Farrell and watch the ball fly into the empty net.

It was the 102nd goal conceded by Darren Schofield’s side this season and you could see why.

Despite a three-goal lead at the break, Williams wasn’t taking anything for granted, especially with the hosts now having the wind in their favour.

“We’ve seen games this season when things have turned around in the second half, so we needed to do things right.” he said.

“We knew they’d throw a lot at us and be direct at times, but we did get hold of the ball, we coped very well.”

Certainly the side from the Sheffield outskirts were much more of a threat after the restart.

Within two minutes, Shane Bland was forced into his first save of the match, a flying tip-over from Julian Banton’s powerful header.

The youngster then parried low to his left from a near-post drive, before Armstrong missed from point-blank range, at the other end.

Matt Hamshaw’s powerful 25-yard effort then extended Bland into another flying push over the bar, just moments after the teenage former Middlesbrough gloveman had smothered a tame edge-of-the-box effort on the turn.

Williams hailed Bland’s eleventh clean sheet of the season claiming: “He’s deserved it. He’s kept us in games.”

“The defence worked very hard, throwing themselves in front of the ball at times,” he added.

“We’re defending well at the moment, not just as a back five, but as a team.”

Town were relatively untroubled for the rest of the match, with Armstrong seeing his close-range shot blocked on the goal-line and even Ibby Hassan came close after staying in the Bridge box following a corner.

Williams also paid tribute to the groundstaff at Stocksbridge.

“It’s one of those when you travel down and you want the game to be on.” he said.

“It was important the game went ahead and the pitch looked fantastic, really not bad at all.”

Stocksbridge Park Steels: Scott, Cadzow, Andrews (Goff 68), Swirad, Banton, Telling, Hamshaw, Lipka (Ring 84), South, Joynes, Callery (c) (Ovington 75). Subs not used: Royles, Knowles.

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock, Pell, McTiernan, Portas, Mulligan (Mason 72), Armstrong (Snaith 74), Farrell, Rundle (Henry 68). Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK).

Attendance: 148

Stocksbridge PS 0 Whitby Town 3