Whitby Town extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches after a thrilling home win over play-off rivals FC United of Manchester, on Saturday.
It was Town’s first-ever home win and double over the club formed by Manchester United supporters and takes them within a single point of the top-five.
“It was a great performance and a good game, as it always is against FC and it was a great time to get the winner,” said Blues’ player-manager Darren Williams.
“I didn’t feel we were under that much pressure and the two goals we did concede were sloppy.
“But I can’t fault our keeping, defensive or overall team display and it was a fantastic atmosphere from both sets of fans,” he added.
Williams was able to keep the same starting line-up for the third game in succession.
“It’s important that we start right and on the front foot,” he said.
After Astley Mulholland and Greg Daniels’ tame efforts from distance, the Blues did just that opening the scoring on eight minutes. Graeme Armstrong exchanged passes with Steven Snaith before finishing clinically past David Carnell from close range.
However, the Red Rebels came more into the game as the half wore on and levelled, in the 30th minute, as a neatly-worked left-wing corner was flicked on at the near post for Adam Jones to celebrate his return to the FC first team with a headed goal.
Nelson Mota sent an acrobatic scissor kick narrowly wide for the visitors and Williams was forced into a first-half change as Lee Bullock limped off, with Kev Burgess taking his centre-half spot.
“We discussed things between us at half-time, where we can improve, what the other team are doing and if necessary what needs to change,” said Williams.
“You don’t want to be changing things as early as that. But look at the personnel.
“We don’t have a massive squad but what we do have is quality.”
Perhaps that quality told as the Seasiders regained the lead, two minutes into the second half. Armstrong’s angled drive from an acute angle landed nicely for Snaith to force past his marker from six yards.
The 19-year-old ex-Hartlepool United forward should have struck again just moments later, but he snatched at the ball first time to scuff wide, with the unmarked Armstrong waiting in a great position.
United were to make the Blues pay just before the hour mark. Leading scorer Tom Greaves raced clear, and after Bland parried, was fortunate to see the ball cannon back off his leg and into the net.
Meanwhile, Williams was keen to get fresh legs on the field with Nathan Mulligan replacing Lee Mason in midfield, with 65 minutes gone and later, Craig Farrell coming on for Steven Snaith in a straight swap up front. Both were warmly applauded on their way past the far-side shed, where the loudest of both teams’ fans stood. The visitors followed suit with Marginson throwing on Joe Fox and Chris Worsley for the lively Mota and Callum Byrne.
Whitby captain Mark Robinson charged down twice in quick succession on the edge of his own box before marksman Mike Norton was added to the mix by the ambitious away side.
However, it was the Seasiders who ended strongly with Armstrong’s 25-yard shot saved low by Carnell, with the effort lacking power. Strike-partner Farrell had the ball in the FC net on 80 minutes only for Carnell to be awarded a free-kick, after going down following a weak punch straight to substitute Craig Farrell from a right-wing set-piece.
It was to be a solo run from that man Armstrong which brought a late winner. The former Blyth marksman cut in from the left flank with six minutes remaining and bided his time before drilling low between Carnell and his right-hand post for his 22nd goal of the season.
Seconds later, a similiar run was blocked by the United keeper and there was almost a late fourth for the Seasiders when Carnell stayed down after losing a 50-50 with Farrell, who squared for Armstrong, but Jones was there to scramble clear.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock (Burgess 37), Pell, McTiernan, Portas, Mason (Mulligan 65), Armstrong, Snaith (Farrell 74), Rundle. Subs not used: Henry, Campbell (GK).
FC United of Manchester: Carnell, Brownhill, Neville, Birch (Norton 79), Jones, Stott (c), Mulholland, Daniels, Greaves, Byrne (Worsley 74), Mota (Fox 74). Subs not used: Walwyn, Giggs.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of the Match: Graeme Armstrong
Match Sponsor: Lockers Trawlers Ltd, Whitby.
Matchball Sponsor: CB Construction (Cleveland Ltd), Middlesbrough.
Whitby Town 3 FC United of Manchester 2