ANOTHER 2-1 home defeat at the Turnbull is keeping Whitby Town on the brink of relegation, not helped by a shocking second half penalty call by referee Dave Musgrave.
Town manager Tommy Cassidy was frustrated with the award, he told the Whitby Gazette: “It’s easy for a manager to blame the referee, but it wasn’t a penalty and that killed us off completely.
“It was a very bad decision and we got another bad decision on Wednesday night here when Dave Southern was given offside when it was a goal, but I’m the manager and I have to see the bigger picture.
“It was a very poor performance from most of my players and I can’t accept that.”
Cassidy made two enforced changes with Andy Leeson coming in at right-back and Dave McTiernan returning from suspension to play just in front.
Ashley Lyth dropped to the bench after picking up a knock in midweek, while forward Andy Campbell was unable to shake off his calf strain from the same game and missed out completely.
The visitors, with just one defeat in their last seven, started strongly and came close inside five minutes when Matty James’ shot on the turn brought a good save low down from Dave Campbell.
James then could, and perhaps should, have put Avenue ahead when he was given lots of space on the right edge of the Whitby area, some 12 yards out as the ball dropped invitingly to him after a scramble. However, the former Guiseley frontman half volleyed first-time across goal and wide.
Roared on by around 100 travelling fans, the visitors’ pressure continued and only a Leon Scott goal-line clearance prevented debutant James Riley from breaking the deadlock with a close range header. Nathan Hotte’s follow-up was deflected wide off Kev Burgess’ hip.
The pink tide finally engulfed the Town resistance just after the half hour.
There was a feeling of inevitability around the Turnbull when James swivelled in the box and drove his fourth goal in two games low past a helpless Campbell.
Whitby’s one and only chance of the half came two minutes before the break. Lone striker Southern held off two defenders before drilling goalward from the edge of the Avenue area.
Keeper John Lamb got down to parry and Riley got in ahead of Jimmy Beadle to hack the ball out for a corner. Town took this momentum into the second half and after Beadle was upended, the former York City midfielder slammed a low free-kick that Lamb did well to hold from 20 yards.
At the other end, Greaves should have done better in acres of space at the far post, but could only nod James Knowles’ free-kick straight at Campbell.
On the hour, The Blues welcomed back Tony Hackworth exactly a month after the club captain was stretchered off at FC United of Manchester. Youngster Joe Cornforth made way in midfield.
Moments later, Town came close again when Burgess’ header was acrobatically cleared by Martin Drury with a bicycle kick, inches from goal.
But the match turned on that bizarre penalty call as Hotte chased a long ball with Campbell meeting him on the edge of the area. With the Whitby keeper appearing to win the race, Hotte slid in rashly and as both men landed on the floor, referee Musgrave astonished most of the crowd by pointing to the spot.
Even the away supporters behind Campbell’s goal seemed bemused as the official consulted the nearest linesman and confirmed his decision. With question marks over whether contact was even made inside the penalty area, the Whitby keeper was then booked.
With no defenders covering behind him, Campbell would have expected to be sent off by the letter of the law. Nevertheless, he remained on the field to be beaten narrowly, low down at his left hand post by Bradford skipper Rob O’Brien.
The introduction of local lad Chris Batchelor, for McTiernan, brought a cheer from the home support and the winger grabbed Whitby’s consolation in the final minute.
Rendered largely ineffective by an unfamiliar right-wing role and despite Town pushing big centre-half Burgess up front, nothing was created until Batchelor got his big chance, when Riley pushed Southern on the edge of the box. Spotting Lamb off his line and unprepared, he took a quick free-kick, curling the ball beautifully into the top-left corner of the net.
Despite three minutes of injury time, Whitby’s only opportunity saw the hard-working Southern hook unconvincingly over the crossbar from 20 yards, summing up the Blues’ afternoon rather well.
Speaking after the game, Cassidy described things as “depressing” at the moment, adding: “I feel sorry for the supporters having to watch that – it’s just not good enough.”
Addressing Blues’ fans directly he also pledged things will be a great deal better next season: “I can’t wait until the summer when I can do my own stuff. I can assure you that there’ll be a big improvement not only on the pitch but off the pitch as well.
“I said on the first day that I arrived that we need to stay up, then look at it.”
Whitby Town: D Campbell, Leeson, White, Hassan, Burgess, Cornforth (Hackworth 60), Southern, Hodgson, McTiernan (Batchelor 70), Beadle (c), Scott. Subs not used: Davis, Lyth, Courtney (GK). Co-operative Whitby WTFC man Of The match: Ibby Hassan. Attendance: 323