Whitby Town remained top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League with a 0-0 shutout at strugglers Ilkeston on Saturday afternoon. Paul Connolly takes us through five things we learned from the game.
1) Whitby need firepower, and fast
One thing that Whitby just couldn’t do on Saturday was find the back of the net.
The Seasiders created enough chances to win the game and had the ball in the back of the net on one occasion, though it was adjudged to have been offside.
Despite Whitby’s best attempts though, their day in front of goal wasn’t to come. If anything was to come, it would have been through Dale Hopson.
Whitby’s strikers looked to misfire again and couldn’t get the breaks that they have so many times in the past.
This brings cause for concern for Chris Hardy, but rumour mills suggest that movement could be on the way, with the Whitby manager looking to bring a player in ahead of the trip to Guisborough Town, on Wednesday.
A striker coming in would put pressure on the current front two to find the net regularly again, with Anthony Hume also looking to force his way into the starting team. A good performance against the Priorymen could thrust him into Hardy’s thoughts.
2) Jack Blackford is at the end of his loan deal
Blackford, for all his pace and technical ability, just didn’t quite manage to do enough to get an extended loan stay with the Blues.
The tricky winger played his final minutes against Ilkeston on Saturday but had little impact on proceedings and subsequently saw his loan deal end.
Although he is a talented player, Blackford seemed to struggle with the physicality that the league brings and couldn’t quite adapt his style of play to suit.
3) Connor Smith is versatile
The young Hartlepool United loanee Smith put in his best performance in a Whitby shirt to date, on Saturday.
He filled in for the injured Callum Martin at wing-back and put in a very good performance, warranting him high praise from Chris Hardy in his post-match interview.
Smith looked assured going forward, causing Ilkeston a number of problems. Defensively he wasn’t quite as good as Martin, but certainly did his job when called upon.
He will almost certainly retain his position at full-back on Wednesday night, with Callum Martin and Kieran Weledji both definitely missing out.
4) Wednesday night is a perfect chance to rest key players
With a big month ahead, Chris Hardy will be looking to use his squad as effectively as possible to maintain fitness levels.
Although tired legs weren’t an issue on Saturday, the Blues still need to rotate and keep players fresh ahead the upcoming December fixtures.
Anthony Hume is expected to return to the side following a goalscoring performance against Goole in the League Cup.
The Blues are also hoping to have a fresh face in their side for the trip, in replacement for the outgoing Jack Blackford.
Other players around the squad include the likes of Elliott Anderson, Lee Bullock, James Dawson and Daniel Dixon, who could all potentially feature.
5) Whitby have a small psychological advantage going into December
Whitby have at least managed to remain top with a draw, going into what is potentially a make or break month.
The Blues face trips to Rushall Olympic and Matlock Town, whilst hosting Blyth Spartans and Nantwich Town, in December.
All four teams are currently in the promotion hunt and will be looking to gain an initiative in the title race.
Whitby, however, remain top of the pile despite just one point from a possible six in their previous two games. Points that could have seen them seven points clear at this stage.
Despite this, Whitby will still be looking down on the teams at the start of the month, giving them a slight psychological advantage going into that crucial first six-pointer against Rushall Olympic.