On a day when luck seemed to be conspiring against Whitby, some late fortune earned Town a deserved share of the spoils, in Lincolnshire, on Saturday.
It was the Blues’ first-ever trip to Stamford’s new Zeeco Stadium and after a bus journey which saw the side arrive less than an hour before kick-off, many will have hoped it would be the last.
Diversions on the A1 southbound meant a scenic route for the official coach and perhaps some players were mentally still on there as the hosts dominated the early stages.
Whitby made one change from the side that drew 1-1 with Frickley Athletic as Liam Shepherd missed out with work commitments so in came Dave McTiernan on his return from a hamstring injury.
Dan Clements’ seventh-minute 20 yard free-kick brought a fine full-length save, low to his right, from keeper Shane Bland, before Town had a let off midway through the first half.
Greg Smith, a striker who has represented Kings Lynn and Grantham Town against the Seasiders already this term – scoring a late equaliser for the former – forced Bland to save with his legs after Ryan Robbins’ laid off.
Robbins scored for Carribean nation St Kitts and Nevis in their World Cup qualifying recently and with 31 goals in all competitions for the Daniels this season could be the key to them retaining Premier Division status.
However, it was the pint-sized Clements who covered every blade of grass and broke the deadlock 11 minutes before the break. The ball was squeezed across goal from Bland’s left-hand post and Clements turned home unmarked inside the six yard box.
Blues assistant boss Dave Campbell thought his side were a touch unfortunate to go in behind at half-time.
“I think we played some decent football and created some good chances in the first half, but lacked a killer instinct in front of goal,” he told the Whitby Gazette.
Town were struck by two injury blows at the interval too as striker James Brown’s long-running knee problem intervened and centre-half Richard Pell’s hamstring tightened up. On came forward duo Jamie Clarke and Steven Snaith- with 21 years separating their ages – Matty Waters, who began up front, dropped back into midfield.
Although the Blues started the second period brightly, despite playing into the wind, they were further weakened when referee Robbie Dadley issued a second yellow card to Ibby Hassan for a body check on Robbins, following a soft first-half caution.
Campbell was furious.
“Ibby’s first yellow was a joke of a decision,” he said.
“At worst, it was a shoulder to shoulder challenge, but never a card.
“The ref made some very bad decisions in the game and he left himself no other option than to give Ibby a second yellow but it was a really bad decision.”
But rather than being rattled by the call, Whitby seemed to wake up, as if energised by what they felt was an injustice.
They soon had the ball in the Stamford net as Kev Burgess thought he’d nodded home his second goal in three games from a corner, only for the assistant’s flag to halt goal celebrations.
The visitors had Stamford pinned back, winning successive set pieces. With 14 minutes left, it was another cross, this one driven in from the left by Dale Hopson, that caused chaos in the home box.
The impressive Waters flicked on at the near post and Stamford skipper Richard Jones got into a tangle, six yards out, as the ball rolled in off the back of his leg.
It was no more than Town deserved and they refused to settled for a point as Waters unleashed a powerful 30-yard free-kick that keeper Andy Stevens did well to push away high to his left, five minutes from time.
“In the second half, I think we played decent football against a strong wind and got what we deserved with the goal,” Campbell added.
“We dug in with the ten men and showed great character and effort.”
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess, Pell (Snaith 46), McTiernan, Bullock, Hopson, Waters (Raby 90), J Brown (Clarke 46), Mason.
Subs not used: Nolan, Campbell (GK).
Stamford 1 Whitby Town 1