Seventh heaven for Whitby Town as they battered rivals Blyth
Seven. Seventh Heaven. Seven Up. It led to headlines, magazine covers and internet puns left, right and centre.
Everything about April 21, 2014 felt right.
Exactly two years earlier, Whitby won 1-0 at Buxton to complete their great escape, though there was a big difference in feeling this time around.
This time around, it was party central. Everything was geared around ‘Painting Croft Park Blue’ – and Whitby did just that.
They arrived in numbers, they sang their hearts out, they backed the Blues, inflatable dolphin and all.
When those supporters arrived, from the second they were through the turnstiles, you knew it was going to be a boisterous atmosphere.
It got to the point that the stewards even nicked the Whitby supporters’ megaphone very shortly after arrival into the ground. Probably wise with the siren that accompanied it.
Still though, they had a drum and 50-odd vocal supporters willing to make a racket. And that’s all they needed.
And make a racket they did – an extensive repertoire of chants was running through celebrating a squad of players who to this point had given Whitby their best season for several years.
Tom Portas was a midfield driving force – a diminutive figure with deceptive power in the middle of the park.
He could pass the ball, he was mobile, he could deliver the ball from set pieces. He was the ultimate all-rounder.
A strike partnership of Craig Farrell and Graeme Armstrong provided the goals.
Armstrong would hit 30 goals by the time the season was out, Farrell added to that with 13 of his own.
Between the sticks, Shane Bland fought off early-season competition from Mark Cook to establish himself as the club’s number one, while in front of him the likes of Kevin Burgess and Richard Pell marshalled the defence.
Add to that the likes of Mark Robinson, Lee Mason and Shane Henry among others made for a strong squad, with Darren Williams assembling a side that came together to push for a play-off place.
Whitby ultimately fell short but enjoyed the ride.
A double over FC United of Manchester, and a home win over Blyth Spartans on Boxing Day were notable days, but it was the reverse fixture against the Spartans that really caught the imagination of the Whitby Town supporters, and the numbers that travelled up to Croft Park on that sun-blessed Easter Monday afternoon.
It was the Blues’ final away day of the season – two buses made the journey to Northumberland and it was the Whitby contingent in the ground who would have plenty to shout about.
The Spartans switched their side around with one eye on their Northumberland Senior Cup final the following night at St James’ Park – a game they would go on to lose 4-0 to a young Newcastle United side.
Blyth goalkeeper Niall Harrison was soon to be in action, denying Burgess from point-blank range.
However from the resulting corner, he wasn’t to be so fortunate.
Lee Mason’s corner found Portas, who smashed home on the volley – an impressive strike that Harrison could absolutely nothing about.
The hosts settled into the game and tested Bland through both Ash Davis and Paul Robinson, but the young Whitby gloveman stood firm, keeping both attempts out.
The day very much became about the former Spartans in the Whitby side, and two of them played a big part in Whitby’s second, little under ten minutes until the break.
Armstrong was played through on goal, before being brought down by Harrison inside the area.
His strike-partner, and fellow signing from Blyth Spartans the season before, Craig Farrell stepped up and blasted his spot-kick into the top corner.
It was the prolific Armstrong who would add the third for Darren Williams’ side, on the stroke of half-time, finishing calmly from ten yards.
After the break, another ex-Spartan got himself in on the goalscoring act.
Seeing Portas’ earlier effort fly into the net, Mason didn’t want to be outdone.
Snaith’s ball fell to Mason, who smashed a left-footed volley home from twenty yards.
Whitby were cruising at 4-0, and while Blyth tried to find some sort of way back into the game, they weren’t looking overly likely to find it.
Ross Phillips headed over the crossbar from a corner, while Joe Kendrick fired into the side-netting after linking up well with Arran Wearmouth, a forward who would go on to turn out for the Seasiders himself down the line.
A minute after Kendrick’s effort, Whitby found their fifth of the afternoon. Farrell’s flick found Adam Rundle.
The former Rochdale player curled an effort from the edge of the penalty area, with Harrison powerless to prevent it finding the corner of the net.
Bland managed to prevent Spartans getting on the scoresheet, saving Dan Maguire’s low effort well, and to rub salt into the wounds for the Northumberland hosts, Whitby would go on to add a further two goals.
Steven Snaith’s cross from the left dropped perfectly for Farrell, who netted his second goal of the game from eight yards, before Zak Boagey’s cross from the left was headed home by Armstrong to complete the scoring.
To this day, the whereabouts of footage of the game continues to be a mystery.
Every other Blyth home game showed up from that season. The 7-0, nowhere to be seen.
If you looked across social media and the hosts’ website, there’d be almost as little to suggest it happened.
Whitby Town and their supporters wouldn’t have let that be. They weren’t to let it pass.
A raucous bus journey home, on one at least anyway, was coupled with constant refreshing of Twitter feeds – a banter that only supporters of rivals can create.
It was all very much one-sided.
Suggestions that it was a nothing game were of course quashed – any competitive game, especially against a rival club, never is.
Suggestions also that it was a weakened side were too. The history books will show the scoreline regardless.
Blyth Spartans 0 Whitby Town 7.