WHITBY Town’s unbeaten run in 2012 came to a bizarre end, after four ridiculous second-half minutes against promotion-chasing Marine, on Saturday, by Andrew Snaith.
The tie came to life 16 minutes from time, when Barbados international Neil Harvey’s shot squirmed past Nick Liversedge from distance, followed swiftly by a bizarre own goal lob at the other end, only for Aaron Rey to seal matters after another Liversedge gaffe, virtually from the kick-off.
Player-boss Darren Williams kept an unchanged side for the third successive game, but it was the Merseyside outfit, with two just defeats on their travels this season, who threatened first as Liversedge reacted well at his near post to parry from Rey.
Paul Brown drove just wide, before Williams came close for the Seasiders on 19 minutes. Some strong running from Ibby Hassan, overlapping down the right, released the ex-Sunderland star, who rattled the outside of the near post from an acute angle, six yards out.
Jon Goulding and Rey then combined to play in Brown, whose lively hook goalwards from the edge of the penalty area was caught by Liversedge. The former Darlington stopper, still just 23, had a less comfortable time when faced with Joe Fowler’s spiralling right-wing cross, in blustery conditions, but reacted well after spilling the deep ball while running backwards.
Marine’s defence were also ill at ease in a strong wind and on a tricky surface and Andy Appleby had a great chance to break the deadlock for the hosts just after the half-hour. The ex-Hartlepool United marksman cut in from the right but could only slam an angled-drive straight at keeper Ryan McMahon’s chest, with the Mariners’ skipper gathering at the second attempt.
Town came even closer, 10 minutes into the second half, when the outstanding Alex White, up from the back, nodded Jeff Smith’s inswinging right-wing corner against the crossbar, with McMahon beaten. Moments later, Williams blasted narrowly over the top after Jamie Clarke was blocked by John Shaw’s desperate last-ditch slide.
The away side, looking to consolidate fifth spot and score their first victory of the new year, began to take a foothold in the match and looked stronger as afternoon wore on, assisted by some poor marking from the Blues.
Only a lack of composure and good reactions from Liversedge, prevented Fowler from taking advantage of being left all alone on the right flank, with no marker in sight. The midfielder hesitated just inside the penalty area and was thwarted by Liversedge diving in at his feet and managing to hold the slippery ball.
However, there was no reprieve minutes later, as the Turnbull pitch, saturated by rain, worked to Marine’s advantage.
Substitute Harvey drilled a speculative low effort goalwards from 20 yards that somehow bobbled over Liversedge’s despairing dive and inside his right-hand post.
Williams jogged to the dugout in the aftermath, with Dave McTiernan on in a more-attack-minded midfield move.
Whitby exchanged front men too, with Matty Tymon on for Clarke and about to make a similiar impact to Harvey. The 21-year-old had been on the field just 15 minutes when he chased a long ball out of defence and pressured Shaw to somehow lob his own keeper from just inside the penalty area.
Tymon cheekily revealed later that he’ll try to claim the goal - the frontman says he got a touch before Shaw’s dreadful attempted clearance and the ball would’ve gone into the net even without the defender’s intervention.
If that was a farcical goal, no-one was prepared for what happened within seconds at the other end. Almost from the centre, Robbie Lawton played a testing pass-through, with Liversedge again caught in no man’s land, and this time, beaten to the ball on the edge of his box by Rey, who rounded him neatly and gleefully hooked into the empty net.
Williams made his final change on 79 minutes when Callum Martin replaced Tom Portas on the right wing, but it was Fowler who curled wide from a soft 20-yard free-kick soon after, while the hosts were limited to shots from distance during four minutes of injury time.
Jimmy Beadle hooked just too high from 20 yards, then McTiernan bent the ball disappointingly wide from the fringes of the area.
Tymon reflected afterwards that the hosts didn’t get the rub of the green.
“I just thought we were unlucky to lose, after playing so well in the first half,” he said.
“After we equalised, we could possibly have went on to win the game - if we hadn’t conceded straight after - because we would have had the momentum.
“Hopefully we can go into the next game fired up, take three points off Burscough and move a step closer to getting out of the relegation zone.”
That task was made easier by defeats for rivals Buxton- 3-1 at home by Chorley and for side above Stocksbridge, who were hammered 5-1 at Stafford Rangers.
Town remain seven points adrift of safety going into Saturday’s basement shoot-out.
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), White, Leeson, Williams (McTiernan 74), Portas (Martin 79), Beadle, Clarke (Tymon 62), Appleby, Smith. Subs not used: Lyth, D Campbell (GK). Attendance: 242
Co-operative Whitby WTFC man of the match: Alex White
Match sponsor: Hatton Traffic Management Ltd; matchball sponsor: Mike Weatherill.