Shane Henry gave Whitby Town a third-minute lead at Ashton, last Saturday, but it took a late Dave McTiernan strike to rescue a point, at mid-table Ashton United.
The result means Town can no longer finish in the top-half of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier and player-manager Darren Williams thinks poor finishing let them down.
He told the Whitby Gazette: “Overall, we had the chances. Unfortunately, at the moment, we’re a little bit dry in front of goal. It’s no disrespect to the forwards, because we all have chances and I think we’ve got to hit the target more.”
Regular centre-halves Kev Burgess and Alex White were recalled, alongside striker Graeme Armstrong, as hotshot Craig Farrell missed out.
Burgess, suffering from a tight hamstring, prodding a weak second-minute back-pass for Nick Liversedge, with the keeper doing well to block one-on-one from Chris Baguley. Town took advantage, seconds later, as Nathan Mulligan’s angled drive was palmed out to Henry, who held off the pony-tailed Kyle Harrop, before firing past Paul Phillips.
However, the Robins rallied and equalised on 13 minutes, as Matty Burke’s innocuous-looking 20-yard pot-shot, was deflected under Liversedge and inside the gloveman’s right-hand post.
At the other end, Armstrong’s acrobatic falling-volley from Steven Snaith’s cross, was brilliantly pushed wide by Phillips. Seven minutes later, the same combination resulted in a much-easier save for the keeper. Armstrong turned quickly after collecting Snaith’s drilled pass, only to see his close-range effort slowed by Craig Robinson’s block.
On the half hour, Robinson’s opposing skipper and namesake, Mark, picked out Armstrong with a left-wing throw- the big frontman again firing goalward on the turn, but Phillips again smothered the ball.
Ashton finished the first half on top. Liversedge clutched Baguley’s free-kick, before Matty Kosylo’s neat, driven cross was diverted straight at the Blues stopper, by Matty Barlow.
The former Darlington keeper then reacted well to tip over Tom Moore’s dangerous downward header, with Alex Frost nodding wide, two minutes before the break.
“We played some good stuff overall in the first half,” Williams reflected. “They wanted to play a very direct game, unfortunately it doesn’t suit us- it kind of drags us into their mould. They did change it and play three in the middle of the park, which upset us a bit, until we got settled.”
United came close just two minutes after the restart with another Moore header, flying up off the bone-dry pitch and having to be palmed away by Liversedge, but Whitby should’ve scored soon after, following a comedy of errors. First, Henry took advantage of Harrop’s slip to sidefoot across the six-yard box, where the shaven-headed Robinson swung at thin air and Snaith somehow poked back across goal, and wide.
Ben Smith, on for Barlow at the break, saw a scuffed shot charged down, before the hosts led for the first time, around the hour mark.
The lively Kosylo darted past Whitby’s Robinson and centered for Chris Amadi to turn home unmarked, from close range.
Smith powered narrowly over from 25 yards, but it was all Whitby for the last 18 minutes. At this point, Henry had been causing problems down the left, crossing for Armstrong to nod wide, just seconds before his departure- but the silky-star was suddenly limping and Nathan Evans took his place.
Another 18-year-old, ex-Sunderland winger Glen Lane, came on for Nathan Mulligan, within moments. Evans, a former Newcastle United trainee, who appeared in pre-season, but failed to impress, was everywhere - first dropping deep to bridge midfield and attack, then hugging the touchline, as Town endeavoured to move the ball crisply to feet, after his introduction.
Williams said: “We just needed to freshen things up a bit. Unfortunately, Shane’s turned his ankle and Nathan’s come on and done very well.
“He looked lively- that’s what you want from your wingers- you want them to be direct and run at defenders..”
A lively Evans run took him past two players, with seven minutes left, but the finish was high and wide. Snaith then drilled into the side netting, after Robinson helped on McTiernan’s free-kick.
On 88 minutes, right-back Ibby Hassan, amid demands to shoot from some fans, following his 35-yard piledriver weeks earlier, overlapped speedily and pulled back to McTiernan, on the edge of the penalty area. The industrious midfielder showed great composure to turn two players, before being blatantly body-checked, inside the box, by the towering Robinson.
And seconds later, when McTiernan’s shot was charged down, the Town dugout fumed when no spot-kick was given, with referee John Dowd admitting to Williams afterwards, he hadn’t given an advantage, but instead, failed to spot the contact.
Williams said: “For me it is a penalty, he has infringed him, he has pulled him, but it’s like one of those, isn’t it, they see it or they don’t - and unfortunately they didn’t see it.”
However, justice was done within moments, when Williams picked out McTiernan in an identical position. This time, the former Middlesbrough junior drilled first-time, diagonally, across Phillips, and into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Whitby Town: Liversedge, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess (Purewal 80), White, McTiernan, Williams, Henry (Evans 72), Snaith, Armstrong, Mulligan(Lane 75). Subs not used: Portas, James.
Ashton United 2 Whitby Town 2