Onions relishes Blues’ biggest ever challenge

WHITBY Town face the biggest week in their history starting on Saturday (14 April) when Burscough visit the Turnbull Ground for a Pay What You Want game, writes Andrew Snaith.

Supporters are able to pay as much or as little as they wish to see Town’s pivotal final home game of the season and with just one point and one place separating the Seasiders from the Evo-Stik Premier drop zone, only a victory will do.

The Blues’ newest addition, David Onions, finally debuted in Easter Monday’s defeat at North Ferriby United, where he missed a gilt-edged chance to claim a late equaliser.

However, the former Guisborough Town skipper is in good spirits ahead of a week that will decide the relegation-threatened Blues’ future in the league.

Onions told the Whitby Gazette: “It felt good to finally get some minutes under my belt, although the result took the shine off it.

“It’s a shame I couldn’t get over the ball in the last few minutes and test the keeper, but hopefully I will have plenty more chances.”

Basement boys Burscough are already mathematically-relegated, but in the midst of a four-match unbeaten run, their best spell of the season, including victory at Worksop and draws with Marine and fourth-placed Bradford Park Avenue.

Although Town won 1-0 in the first meeting of the sides this season, their overall record against the Linnets is poor with just five wins from 20 clashes, since 1981.

Jamie Clarke’s penalty in first-half injury time was enough to see off the West Lancashire outfit last month and Onions, who played alongside Clarke in the Northern League, is under no illusions as to the importance of Town’s run-in.

He refers to a: “massive three games coming up”, adding: “If called upon, I’ll do what I can for the team.”

Wednesday sees the Blues visit Matlock Town, a ground where they’ve never won in 10 attempts.

The Derbyshire side, managed by former Blackburn Rovers Premiership-winner Mark Atkins, currently sit 14th, seven points ahead of the Seasiders, but without a win in five games.

In September, Sam Hodgson put Whitby ahead at the Turnbull Ground against the Gladiators, only for Chris Bettney to beat Dave Campbell with a quickly-taken free-kick equaliser.

Matlock’s defeat at Peak District rivals Buxton, helped the Bucks out of danger and they were further strengthened by a 3-1 win over Stafford Rangers, this past Wednesday.

It appears now to be a straight shoot-out between Stocksbridge Park Steels, Mickleover Sports, Chasetown, Frickley Athletic and Whitby Town, to see which two clubs can avoid the trapdoor.

The three Yorkshire teams have an extra game over their Midlands rivals, with Sports hosting champions Chester on Saturday and finishing at lowly Ashton a week later. Chasetown host Ferriby and go to Burscough on the final day.

Frickley face a tough trip to nearby Bradford, before a midweek outing at mid-table Rushall and a shoot-out with Stafford next weekend. South Yorkshire Stocksbridge make the short journey to Worksop Town, before hosting Nantwich, who sit10th, on Tuesday, followed by Kendal in 11th, next Saturday.

The Blues complete their league campaign with an away game at Buxton on Saturday 21 April.

Player-manager Darren Williams is battling to recover from a knee problem that kept him out of Monday’s reverse, while Kev Burgess (ankle), Clarke (back) and captain Mark Robinson (calf) are expected to again battle through their injuries.

If Robinson plays the final three games for Town, he’ll become the first player to remain ever-present throughout a season since Paul Pitman in 1995-96.

Kick-off at the Turnbull Ground on Saturday is the usual 3pm, with supporters advised to arrive earlier than usual.

The last Pay What You Want match was two years ago and attracted 407 supporters to see the Blues turn over Durham City 2-0, though unlike tomorrow, there was nothing resting on that game.

Supporters will have an opportunity to take to the field themselves afterwards as ‘Locals’ take on ‘Exiles’, with the day itself an ‘Exiles Day’ with fans from all over the country encouraged to hit the town.

A supporters’ coach leaves the Turnbull for Matlock at 2pm on Wednesday, with admission adults £9, seniors/juniors £5.50, under 15s £2 (when accompanied by a paying adult). A seat on the bus costs just £10.