Whitby Town’s reign at the summit of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League came to an end on Saturday after the Blues went down to a cruel 1-0 defeat at Rushall Olympic’s Dales Lane. Paul Connolly takes us through five things we learned from the defeat.
1) Whitby might be hitting a sticky patch in the league
Town have now failed to win in their previous three league matches, with their last league win coming at Coalville.
Although the Blues are still battling away in games, they haven’t netted in those games either, with the spell proving frustrating for the front pairing of Matthew Tymon and Mikey Roberts.
After Dale Hopson’s hat-trick midweek, Chris Hardy pushed Dale Hopson further forward, with Steven Snaith coming straight back into the squad. The move saw a frustrated Mikey Roberts drop to the bench.
With a crucial December now underway, Hardy will be looking to arrest the run on Saturday afternoon, with Nantwich Town visiting the Turnbull Ground.
With Callum Martin and Kieran Weledji both returning from injury, along with Kyle Fryatt becoming available again, the Blues manager could shake things up to further freshen the make-up of the starting XI and stop the side heading into a slump.
2) Kyle Fryatt could make a big difference
A comment that has been passed is that Whitby are lacking a clinical edge in front of goal in the league.
This proved to be the case on Saturday, with the pacey winger missing for the trip.
Due to prior engagements before joining the club, Fryatt was unable to travel to Rushall for the game.
With Fryatt missing, fans waxed lyrical about the qualities that he can bring to the team, following a successful debut in the win at Guisborough Town.
Fryatt looked like the sort of player that Whitby needed on Saturday too. His want to run at players and get a shot away is something that was fairly vacant across the game.
3) Extending Connor Smith’s loan is a priority
Loanee Connor Smith put in another very good performance at full-back for the Blues, before moving into the middle of the park.
Coupled with the talent shown, Smith has shown an excellent attitude to the game, often aiming for high standards on the field.
Smith’s recent performances haven’t gone unnoticed from the management team either, with Chris Hardy considering extending his loan deal.
Whether he remains with the Seasiders for a longer spell is down to both Craig Hignett at Hartlepool United and the player himself.
With regular game time on offer, it’s quite possible that Smith will be keen to extend his stay at the Turnbull Ground.
4) Shane Bland has right to feel aggrieved
Bland had another good game for the Blues, showing his worth on several occasions.
The Blues stopper crucially saved two penalties over the 90 minutes, but couldn’t prevent a rebound hitting the back of the net from the second.
There is a case for Bland to be frustrated, with there being an argument for the Blues defenders to have made it into the box sooner to clear the danger.
5) The Blues could start to rue not taking chances
Going into this game, Whitby could have been seven points clear of second place at the top of the table.
Instead, a defeat against Grantham, coupled with a draw at Ilkeston gave Whitby just a one-point cushion at the top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
The cushion saw the defeat knock the Blues off top on Saturday, but on a day when all of the top four faced each other, the Blues managed not to lose too much ground.
Buxton and Blyth played out a draw at Croft Park, meaning Whitby only dropped to third.
But with the next three games coming against play-off hopefuls, Whitby would have appreciated having the psychological advantage of having such a substantial gap at the summit of the division, to both give them breathing space and the opportunity to extend it further.