WHITBY Town face a huge eight days in their battle to remain in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier, including back-to-back home games this week, writes Andrew Snaith.
Darren Williams’ men tackle FC United of Manchester on Wednesday, before travelling to leaders Chester three days later - but it’s second-placed Northwich Victoria at the Turnbull Ground this Saturday (24 Mar).
The Cheshire side, who are living a nomadic existence after being kicked out of their Football League-standard stadium, have just one league defeat in six, though that was a 4-1 drubbing at mid-table Kendal earlier this month.
Managed by ex-Port Vale schemer Martin Foyle, the Vics squeezed past basement club Burscough 2-1 on Tuesday.
The title-chasers, who trail Chester by five points, had to come from behind to edge their midweek outing.
However, the former Conference club have the best away record in the league, with just two losses and 39 points netted from 17 outings.
The Blues have never beaten them, with a 4-2 defeat in last season’s corresponding game at a fog-swept Upgang Lane and a 2-2 draw in the FA Trophy, followed by injury-time heartbreak in the replay.
Last November, in Williams’ fifth game in charge, Northwich won 2-0 at their former Victoria Stadium home, despite a spirited Town display.
The victory at Marine last weekend, against the division’s seventh-placed team, just four points from the play-offs, was both spirited and accomplished.
Whitby defender Alex White (23) agreed it was the Blues’ best showing of the season, describing it as: “An all round great performance that showed we can match higher teams in our league.”
He added: “We played as if it’s a home game, with confidence and that definitely puts teams off.”
Victory tomorrow would again give the Seasiders a chance to climb out of the four relegation positions.
Nearest club Frickley, just one point above the Blues, host strong-travellers Marine, while Mickleover, on the same tally, visit Burscough.
Chasetown, who Town can also overtake providing they lose and Whitby win, have a six-pointer at home to second-bottom Buxton.
West Midlands outfit Chase have beefed up their survival hopes by signing ex-Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie (34) this week, after his release from Blue Square Premier neighbours Kidderminster Harriers.
Meanwhile, White, a former Hartlepool United and Stranraer centre-half, also told the Whitby Gazette: “The results lately have proved how strong we are as a team and showed the strength in depth we’ve got.
“We’ve won five out of six away games and not many teams have done that, not even Northwich Victoria, so it shows how well we’re doing.
“We should be going in confident and we’re at home as well, that makes things better, with our fans behind us.”
The Blues then play host to one of the division’s best-supported sides in FC United of Manchester.
The Red Rebels currently sit sixth, but could be as high as third by the time they arrive at the Turnbull Ground, on Wednesday night.
It was estimated that the postponement of the original fixture against the Lancastrians, first set for the opening Saturday in February but ruined by a hard frost, could cost the Blues more than £6,000 in lost revenue.
However, a good turn-out, with player-boss Williams insisting that Town supporters can be the club’s “twelfth man” in the battle to stay up, should make a big dent in that figure.
United have played in front of four-figure crowds in their last six games, losing just once and defeating fourth-placed Hednesford Town on their travels, last week.
They’re another side that Whitby have yet to beat in seven attempts, though three of the last four clashes have ended all square.
FC eased past the Blues last September, in their first meeting this season. Watched by 1,408 people at Gigg Lane, Bury, they won 3-0 against the lacklustre visitors, then led by former chief Tommy Cassidy.
Whitby’s physio Kenny Bolton fully expects Williams to shrug off hamstring and ankle knocks ahead of a busy playing schedule, with defender Ibby Hassan also set to overcome a calf strain that forced him off last weekend.
Hassan and his team-mates will need to be wary of the Reds’ strike pairing of Matt Wolfenden and Mike Norton, with the duo grabbing 29 goals between them, so far in the current campaign.
Admission for both games is still just £8 for adults, £5 concessions and £2 for under 16s. Northwich is a 3pm kick-off on Saturday afternoon, while United’s visit is a 7.45pm start, with supporters advised to arrive early.
The Blues visit runaway leaders Chester, for the first ever time, a week on Saturday (31 Mar).