Sloppy Matlock Town gifted Whitby three goals and a lifeline in their bid to beat the drop in Thursday’s rearranged game.
Gladiators’ boss Mark Atkins was furious afterwards labelling the second half performance as “the worst 45 minutes by any team at this level” that he had seen.
It was certainly a far cry from the battling spirit shown in the victory against FC United in their previous game and a dreadful way to end their home campaign.
Matlock’s miserable night was compounded as Lewis McMahon was taken to hospital with a nasty facial wound and skipper James Lukic was sent off with nine minutes left after a melee in the Matlock half.
Whitby players had been held up by an accident on the A1M, north of Wetherby, so their late arrival meant the game kicked off 19 minutes late.
But conversely it was the Seasiders who settled by far the better as Matlock’s defence looked shaky. Adam Yates, partnering Lukic in central defence, can scarcely have had such a horrible performance in his three years at the club, while Lukic himself, normally the defensive kingpin, was well below par.
Jamie Clarke put Matlock firmly on the back foot with two goals in a minute. In the eighth minute, Nathan Mulligan shrugged off Yates who pushed him to concede a penalty and the veteran Whitby number nine confidently stroked the ball home as Jon Kennedy went the wrong way.
Then almost immediately Yates failed to head clear and Clarke lifted a 20-yarder over Kennedy. Whitby had never won at Matlock and they could not have wished for a better start.
The hosts needed a foothold and got it on 17 minutes when McMahon stroked home after Ben Algar and Liam King had built the move with some neat play. This was the catalyst for Matlock’s best spell of the game.
Goalkeeper David Campbell gathered a 20-yarder from Gareth Davies low to his left before King struck a superb leveller on the half hour. Algar linked with McMahon to find King on the left and the midfield dynamo flighted a marvellous effort over Campbell and into the far top corner of the net.
Only the woodwork prevented Ian Holmes from putting Matlock in front seven minutes later as an error in the visiting defence saw him break clear and his lob came back off the bar with Ibrahim Hassan conceding a corner as McMahon closed in for the kill.
Campbell failed to hold an Algar strike but Whitby reminded the Blues that they were still in the game when Clarke’s glancing header bounced a yard wide of Kennedy’s right hand upright.
It was all downhill for Matlock in the second half and the sloppiness returned within 15 seconds of the resumption as Whitby were again gifted a goal.
Kris Bowler lost the ball inside the Whitby half and nobody challenged Darren Williams in a forty yard run before the ball was fed to Mulligan who rifled a shot into the top left hand corner.
Kevin Burgess was booked for a high boot on McMahon which saw the Matlock number ten helped off, to be replaced by Nathan Joynes. Shortly afterwards a frustrated King was also yellow carded for dissent.
Matlock now looked toothless as Whitby had an easy time in defending their lead and it looked increasingly likely the visitors would add to their lead. David McTiernan pulled a shot wide when well placed after Holmes had lost possession cheaply.
But respite for Matlock proved only to be brief for, with 19 minutes to go, Whitby regained their two-goal advantage and this time there would be no way back for Matlock.
Laurence Gaughan was booked for upending Jeff Smith. Mulligan curled the free-kick precisely beyond the wall and beat Kennedy with ease.
Lukic saw red in a tussle with Clarke which developed into a melee which was more handbags than violence. Burgess, though, should really have joined him, running 40 yards to become involved in something which was nothing to do with him.
Campbell was finally called into action in the 88th minute to push away a low daisycutter from Bowler.
Atkins admitted that Whitby were worthy winners.
“We got off to a terrible start from two errors from Adam Yates, something we’re not used to. That put us under the cosh but then we played quite well, getting the two goals and could even have gone in front.
“But it was a terrible second-half performance and I can’t stick up for the players after that. There was no desire, no will to win, Whitby simply wanted it more and ended up deserving the three points.
“James Lukic didn’t get sent off through anything done by Whitby’s players, it was frustration with performances from our players. What tonight has shown me is that we’re lacking quite a bit in a lot of departments and not just football wise.
“The team we fielded tonight was more than capable of winning the game and it’s disappointing as the players should be proving to me they want to be here next season.
“We wanted a good end to the season after The FC united win but they let the club, the fans, Nick buxton, Mick Cunningham and me down and most of all, they let themselves down.”