January is crunch time for Whitby Town

WHITBY Town face their most critical month of the season, with home games for the next three Saturdays, as they bid to climb out of deep relegation trouble.

The Blues began 2012 well with a 2-1 win at Frickley Athletic on Monday and have the perfect chance to build on that with three consecutive home games, beginning at home to Chasetown this weekend.

However, despite this week’s three points, the second-bottom Blues still have a nine-point deficit between themselves and fifth-bottom Mickleover Sports, who sit on the other side of the relegation split.

Whitby have never been relegated before in 117 years of competitive football.

Chairman Graham Manser is once again making a rallying call to the people of Whitby to get behind their hometown team.

“It is a vital month of the season,” he said. “We got a terrific result at Frickley, but we need to build on it and I would urge the town to come and support us in these next three games.”

And player-manager Darren Williams was quick to praise Town supporters who travelled to West Yorkshire and called for his players to retain possession for longer.

The former Sunderland star told the Whitby Gazette: “It was a great atmosphere and we were pleased for the club as a whole and the travelling fans.

“It’s great coming in at the end and having a massive cheer in the dressing room, because we’ve not had that in a while.

“It’s not nice hearing the other team cheering next door.

“I think we just need to compose ourselves a little more - I include myself in that at times - and keep the ball a bit longer.”

Striker Andy Campbell is likely to miss the rest of the season, after surgery on a long-running knee problem proved trickier than expected and Dave McTiernan is not expected to return until the end of the month, with a severe groin and back complaint.

Williams could also be without influential defender Kev Burgess for the next six weeks, due to a wrist strain, but should welcome back Jeff Smith from a facial injury at the weekend and Ash Lyth, after a one-match suspension.

Physio Kenny Bolton also confirmed Andy Appleby, Billy Blackford and Williams all picked up knocks over the festive programme but the trio should be available, with teenage forward Jordan Hugill, who landed awkwardly on his knee after just 16 minutes of his first start for the club, a possible for Saturday.

“It’s just one of those things with Kev,” Williams said.

“We’ve got to treat it week by week and see how things go - people heal differently, but I know he’s desperate to get back playing.

“You just want a bit of good fortune - we’ve ended up without three or four lads who would probably be in the starting eleven - some with long-term injuries, some with minor niggles.”

Town’s West Midlands visitors are in their second season at Northern Premier level after promotion through the First Division South play-offs in April 2010. They reached the FA Trophy quarter-finals, last season, defeating Blue Square Premier Grimsby Town on the way to a replay defeat at finalists Mansfield Town.

In three meetings, the Seasiders have yet to record a victory over Charlie Blakemore’s men, who held them to a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the season.

The Staffordshire side lost out 2-0 on Monday to Rushall Olympic, ending a run of three successive victories.

The following week (Saturday 14th) sees Kendal Town visit the Turnbull Ground. The Cumbrians suffered an even more miserable fate as they kicked off 2012, copping a 4-3 defeat to bottom club Burscough, after conceding an injury-time own goal.

And Saturday 21 pits the Blues against Merseysiders Marine, in a match rearranged from October, after Whitby reached the third qualifying round of the FA Cup and tackled Blyth instead.

The Mariners were also beaten at home over New Year, 4-2 against play-off rivals Chorley, despite going into the game with five wins from their last six league outings. Town have a terrific record against the Crosby club with just three defeats in 17 clashes, since 2004.

Kick-off at the Turnbull Ground on Saturday is 3pm. The match will be preceded by a presentation of over £300 to Whitby Town treasurer Andrew Spenceley by supporter Andy Lever, who walked 15 miles from his home in Loftus to the Boxing Day home game with North Ferriby United, to raise funds.

There is a dominoes drive in the club house on Friday (6 Jan) at 8pm.