Whitby chasing dream top five finish – Haslam

NPL Premier Division 

Whitby Town manager Nathan Haslam

Whitby Town joint manager Nathan Haslam says a top five finish and a play-offs spot would rank as a big success.

Whitby are up there in sixth-place, competing with big guns such as South Shields, Buxton and leaders Matlock Town.

The Seasiders have never finished higher than fourth in the NPL Premier Division (pre play-offs era in 2015) and Haslam says his and Lee Bullock’s side are performing admirably with the resources available.

“You’re in football to achieve things and the aspirations of most clubs in the league are to get to the play-offs and we’re one of many,” Haslam told Non League Yorkshire.

“As a club we have been in the Northern Prem for knocking on 25 years and we have never got to the play-offs.

“Some people say it is quite unrealistic because Whitby have always been a mid-table team or lingering in the bottom half team.

“We had a strong pre-season and our recruitment carried on from the season that was cancelled so we were quietly confident we could have a good season.

“We started like a house on fire.

“We have had a bit of a dip which you’d always expect but we’re still in and around it so for us it is about keeping on the coat-tails of the top five.

“We are three points from the top five at the moment so if we were to hit the play-offs it would be the best Whitby have ever done so it would be a massive achievement for us.

“Our budget is workable and decent for a club of Whitby’s size but it is nowhere what some of these big boys are spending.

“For us to be where we are we are doing remarkably well.

“You’re in right what you say, not just in our league, but in Non League in general there’s a lot of money flying around.

“Some lads (at other clubs) don’t even need to work, the money is that good so it is an achievement in itself to see where we are at the moment.”

Two consecutive defeats – to Lancaster City and Morpeth Town – have prevented Whitby from really getting up close and personal with leaders Matlock.

Whitby now head into a home clash with Atherton Collieries, looking to bounce back in the league.

Haslam does not see it as a must-win though.

“Every game is important,” he said.

“We can think about things a little too much but there’s still 18 games to go of the season.

“There’s a long way to go.

“Buxton, the biggest spenders in the league and it is well-reported with the players they are signing, they have lost four in five which can of tells you to ultimately not think too far ahead and don’t think too far behind in terms of your results.

“You have to crack onto the next game.

“Atherton, we look at it as an opportunity for us to keep on the coat-tails of the play-offs.

“They’ll be looking it as a chance to get closer to the play-offs.

“What’s happening is the teams who had great starts are faltering and we’re one of those clubs.

“The teams who started poorly or are mid-table are starting to pick points up now and as ever with the Northern Prem anyone can beat anyone.

“With 17 or 18 games to go it is really tightening and it is anyone’s.

“Anyone up to 14th or 15th can reach the play-offs.”

One reason for the mini-slump could be the injury situation.

Whitby had multiple players side-lined for the North Riding Cup win over York City, including Lewis Ritson (ACL), Danny Rowe (ankle) and Soni Fergus (groin).

“It has been tough,” Haslam said.

“We got through the start of the season ok but eventually it has taken its toll.

“I think there is a few mitigating arguments on it but it is a part-time league and lads are going to work all day and for the first ten or eleven weeks of the season the lads were playing twice a week and travelling great distances.

“Eventually fatigue does set in.

“That’s truly what I believe and when you’re running with a squad of 17 or 18 players which a lot of us are, you can’t really rotate as much as you would like.

“A one point we had about seven out.

“We have had to draft in loanees from academies and we brought two in from Middlesbrough who have been absolutely brilliant for us.

“There has been times when Bully, my co-manager, has been on the bench and he’s 40-years-old.

“He played last night (against York).

“We have been really stretched but so far we’re having a half-decent season.”

Away from match preparation, Haslam and chief executive Graeme Hinchliffe have been playing Poirot and Inspector Morse.

The club have been plagued by an unidentified prankster who has been offering players to them.

A official statement was released and the hunt for the pizza-loving bandit led Haslam to business premises in Middlesbrough where the search went cold.

“It is a bit of a strange one,” he said.

“Our chief executive got a phone call from someone offering players and I questioned it by saying ‘why would they ring the chief executive’?

“That was the end of it at that particular point but then we had a player ring us saying he had heard we were interested in him and it was in relation to another club.

“That’s when we had to put it out as an official statement as what we don’t want is clubs thinking we are actively pursuing players that belong to other clubs.

“Obviously there is a joker out there who is getting a kick out of it.

“One of the numbers he did leave, I did ring it back and it was a pizza shop in Middlesbrough!”

Although tempted, Haslam resisted the temptation to order a Hawaiian.

“I don’t mind a pizza but it was too far away for me to get a pizza (from there)!” he quipped.

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