CRAIG Farrell’s 35-yard lob, after just 58 seconds, ended a four-match losing run for Whitby Town, despite facing the final 14 minutes with just ten men.
Player manager Darren Williams picked an unchanged starting line-up from the 3-1 defeat at Ilkeston, against a Matlock tea, who knocked Blue Square Premier Mansfield Town out of the FA Trophy.
Williams made it clear, before the game, that his side had to start better, after shipping two goals in 15 minutes a week earlier.
The ex-Sunderland star revealed: “The point I made was disappointment at the way we started the Ilkeston game, we didn’t get up against people and you can’t afford to give teams that room.
“I said there was no option to lose this game, we had to go and win. Losing wasn’t in my mind and I didn’t want it in the players’ minds either.”
With the game kicking off a few minutes early, many supporters were still queuing outside the Turnbull Ground when Farrell struck.
It was a backpass to Gladiators keeper Jon Kennedy which began the visitors’ problems, the heavy pitch slowed the ball and forced Kennedy to the edge of his box, in order to out-run the on-rushing Tom Portas.
However, the former Sunderland and Blackpool stopper succeeded only in clearing straight to Farrell, near the left touchline, just inside the Matlock half, who took a touch before chipping over the stranded gloveman and into the empty net.
At the other end, Nick Liversedge smothered James Ashmore’s 25-yard free-kick, but the half was dominated by the hosts, who put together some excellent football, despite the conditions.
Graeme Armstrong’s ninth-minute 20-yarder was grabbed comfortably by Kennedy, but the Blues’ top-scorer Nathan Mulligan should’ve done better, soon after, when he drilled into the side netting when well-placed.
Whitby created more great chances in a manic three-minute spell.
First, Armstrong turned provider, teeing up Ibby Hassan, whose ballooned 12-yard shot, landed nearer the seafront benches, than the woodwork of Kennedy’s goal. Seconds later, Armstrong’s ferocious effort from distance forced Kennedy to fend away, but only as far as Mulligan, who played in Shane Henry to drive low and straight at the busy keeper from 16 yards.
Armstrong did have the ball in the net on 22 minutes, only to fall foul of a very marginal offside, for the second game in three.
However, five minutes later, as if to demonstrate they were still in the contest, Mark Atkins’ men mimicked their hosts. It was Massiah McDonald who failed to live up to his name, when adjudged to have fouled Liversedge, before bundling home from point blank range.
Kennedy, unlike his opposite number, then managed to hold on impressively to Farrell’s 18-yard stinger, which was arrowing toward the left-hand corner. Moments later, the Seasiders came close again as Mulligan’s deft free-kick fell to Craig James, who scuffed inches wide of Kennedy’s left-hand post. Mulligan then showed why he stands third in the NPL Premier scoring charts, the 26-year-old producing a powerful side-footer, from the edge of the area, that nearly caught out Kennedy, but instead, slipped narrowly past the keeper’s right-hand post.
Williams told his charges “just to weather the storm” at half-time.
He added the plan was just to break them down on the counter-attack - “not so much to sit in - because if you sit in you invite pressure - but Matlock were always going to throw things forward and try to get themselves back in the game.”
So it proved, as the Derbyshire outfit, fresh from seven wins in 10, had much the better of the second half, but Blues still had a glorious opportunity to increase their advantage, six minutes after the restart.
It was Farrell who set up the chance, this time, pressuring right-back Gareth Davies to fire against him, near the left corner flag, before squaring to Henry, who somehow blazed over from six yards.
The visitors almost hit back within two minutes, as former Frickley forward Brad Grayson brought the first of several top-class saves from Liversedge, after the break.
Lewis McMahon, one of Matlock’s scorers in their midweek shock, curled a free-kick wide, while Mulligan, Whitby’s own deadball specialist, came closer still, swerving against the crossbar.
Steven Snaith had replaced Henry for the final half-hour. Like Mulligan, the full-blooded frontman playing out wide, in the kind of conditions where his workrate could prove crucial.
At the other end, McMahon threatened once more, but Liversedge continued to work wonders, blocking superbly at the former Notts County man’s feet.
Whitby then faced a challenge of a different kind, with McMahon and Dave McTiernan clashing verbally and physically.
The long-serving Blues midfielder was harshly booked for not retreating when Davies cynically blasted a quick free-kick against him from a few feet away, but McTiernan could have no complaints, five minutes later, when his temper boiled over and he clattered Ashmore needlessly, inside the away side’s six-yard box.
Referee Marc Edwards had no choice but to produce a second yellow card and send the midfielder on his way, with 76 minutes gone.
Williams later paid tribute to what he called: “great saves and great defending from everyone” - there were plenty of examples in a frenetic finish, as Matlock laid siege.
For Whitby, another midfield man, Michael Tait, came on for Farrell, five minutes from time, to shore things up, further back.
McDonald, who netted a 90th minute winner against Mansfield, almost struck late on again, only for Blues skipper Mark Robinson to hook clear, from his own goal-line.
There were wild celebrations when the final whistle finally rang out, November was a month to forget, for the Seasiders, with no points and four defeats racked up.
Hopefully the generosity of the season will result in a few gifts from opposition keepers and centre-halves in the weeks to come.
Williams obviously hopes so, but he swiftly saluted his own team’s defending.
“We didn’t sit off them”, he said.
“We were very close, all over the pitch, [with] the work ethic and last-ditch defending, we had to do, on occasions.
“We dominated the first half.
“We had some great chances - unfortunately, we couldn’t just get that second goal. I’m not saying that’s the game over and done with, but it does give us that little bit of a cushion.
“I think the lads approached it in the right manner and did everything we asked of them.”
The gaffer, who watched one half from the main stand and the other from the shed, as he served a one-match suspension, also found time to praise hard-working groundsman Eric Wilson, after the game survived an early pitch inspection, followed by sleet and heavy rain.
“Sometimes things like that go unnoticed, you see him very early, before the game, preparing the pitch and you see him out there after everyone’s got changed, late at night. He does a fantastic job.”
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), James, Purewal, McTiernan, Portas, Henry (Snaith 59), Farrell (Tait 85), Armstrong, Mulligan (Clarke 90). Subs not used: White, D Campbell (GK). Attendance: 237
Whitby Co-operative WTFC man of the match: Nick Liversedge