Praise for depleted Blues

Whitby Town player-boss Darren Williams was unconcerned after Saturday’s defeat at last season’s Evo-Stik NPL Premier champions, North Ferriby United.

With just 12 players, including two goalkeepers, it was always a tough assignment for the Seasiders against Blue Square North opposition.

Williams agreed, saying there were still “massive positives” to take out of the game, adding: “We’ve worked really hard and put ourselves about the park.

“It’s just been one of those situations where lads have been stuck at work, ill, or on holiday. It’s disappointing, but part and parcel of part-time football.

“I’ve not played much in pre-season myself, so I’m pleased I got through it.

“The lads put a great shift in – Ibby and Robbo have done really well at full back – everyone’s worked their socks off.

“Some of the one-touch football we’ve played in and around the box area was great today.”

The hosts threatened inside two minutes as Jamie Yates’ free-kick was headed out by Lee Bullock, but only to Nathan Jarman, who waited patiently on the left-edge of the six-yard box, before volleying powerfully.

Keeper Shane Bland earned some good fortune with a superb near-post parry, low to his right, the loose ball striking team-mate Ibby Hassan, but the ex-Boro stopper was able to gather.

At the other end, Graeme Armstrong surprised Adam Nicklin, as he turned and shot, from 30 yards, the ball flying inches wide of the Ferriby keeper’s right-hand post.

Nathan Mulligan then repeated the dose with a free-kick from similiar range, before sending Nicklin scrambling again, with an identical set-piece, moments later.

United skipper Matt Wilson headed wide from a far-post corner, conceded by a fine Mark Robinson slide-challenge 12 yards from goal, to deny Jarman. The ex-Barnsley marksman was frustrated once more, midway through the first half, as Bland pushed his stooping header around the keeper’s left-hand post.

Both sides then wasted gilt-edge chances. First, the ball was squared across the face of goal, from the right, for Jarman, point-blank, to drill against the post and Hassan, who was able to clear.

Whitby relied on Mulligan to provide an opening, as the former Darlington forward crossed from the left, only for unmarked trialist Danny Dixon to sidefoot wide, from six yards.

Another ferocious Mulligan hit flew just over the top, before Ferriby led, following a five-man passing move, eight minutes before half-time.

Last season’s NPL top scorer, Ryan Kendall, turned provider, releasing ex-Matlock man Liam King, to stroke home from close range, amid suspicions of offside.

Kendall, who blasted 35 league goals in 36 games last term, failed to pack his shooting boots, ending a mazy run with a dire scuff straight at Bland, on 65 minutes. Danny Hone should also have increased the hosts’ lead, but sent a free header wide, with 16 minutes remaining.

Town nearly punished the East Yorkshire outfit, late on, as Hassan’s deflected cross was fired goalwards by Steven Snaith, but sub-keeper Antoni Pecora’s saved superbly.

Ferriby then rubbed it in by slotting in a second, with 90 minutes on the clock. Sub Anthony Wilson rose higher than a static Blues defence, to head Yates’ left-wing corner past a helpless Bland.

Williams remained upbeat afterwards and continued to praise his backline, perhaps indicating he’d found his preferred centre-back set-up.

“Kev [Burgess] and Lee [Bullock] looked really well together”, he said. “We want to have a look at it in the next two games and fiddle around with things. The great thing about Lee is he can play centre-midfield or central-defence. Not only do you have his presence in there, but his experience as well.”

Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Burgess, Bullock, Portas, Dixon, Williams, Armstrong, Snaith, Mulligan. Not used: Campbell.