Whitby Town slipped to their fourth successive defeat, at fourth-bottom Witton, on Saturday, with player-boss Darren Williams blasting some of his players for being in “holiday mode”.
Williams told the Whitby Gazette: “I feel annoyed and let down. Certain players weren’t doing their best and they need to look at themselves and decide if they want to be at this club next season or not.
“The decision-making was horrendous and I sympathise with supporters who also gave up their full day to watch that – I told the players, they’ve can’t have qualms if anyone wants to criticise them.”
Town’s player-manager made two changes from the side that lost 2-1 at home to Stamford, a week earlier, with Tom Portas replacing Nathan Mulligan in midfield and Steven Snaith shrugging off a head injury to come in for top scorer Graeme Armstrong, who was sidelined with flu.
Whitby started brightly with a neat one-touch move, inside two minutes, ending with Dave McTiernan firing high and wide from 20 yards.
At the other end, Danny Andrews’ angled drive flew narrowly past Shane Bland’s left-hand post from the edge of the box, while seconds later, Alex Titchiner controlled well before forcing Bland to save low to his left from an awkward 20-yard effort.
Witton’s Michael Powell saw his snapshot blocked in the six-yard box by Blues skipper Mark Robinson, with Whitby then breaking quickly as Craig Farrell lost his marker but fired straight at Albion keeper Matt Cooper.
However, the ex-Blyth hitman wasn’t to be denied on 35 minutes. After a succession of tight offside calls, Portas timed his run to perfection and laid off beautifully for Farrell to smash into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
Williams fumed that his team could be a “Jekyll and Hyde side” at times and lived up to that tag with a second half that saw them throw away a lead for the 12th time this season.
“It was like the eleven who started the game disappeared at half-time and another team turned up for the second half.”he added. “We controlled the first half, looked comfortable, even against the wind, then went on to let ourselves and the fans down.”
Within 10 minutes of the restart, the Cheshire side were level as Josh Hancock sped down the left and squared across the goal for Bland to parry, but Andrews arrived late at the far post and turned home.
“Attitudes are key and sometimes our work-rate goes out of the window after we concede a goal,” Williams said.
Barely five minutes later and the former Conference club should have led as Titchiner raced clear with only Bland between him and goal, he chipped the onrushing teenager, only to see the ball cannon back off the crossbar.
Midway through the second half came a chance for Titchener, Witton’s greatest threat, to redeem himself. He was afforded time to expertly chest down a long ball and fire past Bland in one motion, from close range.
Powell’s ferocious 25-yard drive then brought a strong parry from Bland, with an equally-powerful effort from the midfielder flying across the face of goal and narrowly wide.
Williams had thrown on wingers Adam Rundle and Shane Henry with Lee Mason and centre-half Lee Bullock making way as Town switched to a more traditional 4-4-2.
It was to little avail and Witton should have wrapped things up 10 minutes from time when Scott Bakkor went through unchallenged, but hit the post from six yards out, with only Bland to beat.
Moments later, with the red hordes charging forward at will, a simple cross-field ball bounced up and over Richard Pell’s left knee and released Titchiner, who side-footed straight at Bland.
They promptly put the game to bed, however, six minutes from time, substitute Jon Dawson cut in from the left and drilled past a helpless Bland, with Town cut open all too easily.
Almost more frustratingly than a complete collapse, Town began to stutter back into life right at the end when 3-1 down.
Big Kev Burgess, up from the back, forced Cooper to push wide a low drive and in injury time, Cooper did well to save at McTiernan’s feet, as the 29-year-old escaped to the fringes of the Witton six-yard box.
“We’ve been our own undoing in the last four games,” Williams concluded.
“Much as the play-offs look impossible now, people should still be playing for their places and that competitive edge should always be there.
“The season cannot be allowed to just filter out.”
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock (Henry 76), Pell, McTiernan, Burgess, Portas, Snaith (Mulligan 66), Farrell, Mason (Rundle 76). Subs not used: Williams, Campbell (GK).
Witton Albion 3 Whitby Town 1