Despite eventually going down to a 2-0 defeat in the Northumberland Senior Cup at Morpeth, Whitley produced a much improved performance and manager Nathan Haslam was quick to acknowledge that the improvements were in the areas of the game that he had been asking for. “We’ve done a lot of work defensively since Saturday, on shape and the basics on what we should and shouldn’t be doing. We’ve spent a lot of time on it and the challenge for the lads tonight, against a very good team, was ‘can we go in against a very good team and see it work,’ and it did, in the first half certainly, and also in the second half, but you’ve got to give them (Morpeth) their dues – they’ve scored in the end and then got a deflected goal. But I’m really, really happy with our shape. We were up against a quality team and we competed for 90 minutes against them. If we take that into the league we’ll be ok, so that’s the key now. We’ve all agreed collectively, team and management that defensively we’re not where we need to be and we’ve said we need to make a big change in that with the personnel that we’ve got. I can genuinely say that we’re not going to come across a better attacking team than that in our league and we’ve stifled them, we’ve soaked everything up and frustrated them and that is the key moving forward. We’ve just got to go and do that in every game that we play and if we do, then we’ll be fine.”
When Morpeth scored just after half time, some fans feared the worst and the manager could understand those fears. “With the amount of possession that Morpeth had and they way they kept distributing the ball, yes, it was a worry but the floodgates didn’t open. Again it’s a credit to our lads; they’ve stuck to what I’ve asked them to do and they’ve seen it work against a good team, so I think they trust in what they’ve done. They’ve tried their very best and I’ve just said to them ‘you’re not going to come up against a defence like that in our league.’ They’re very good footballers, very good defenders. We’ve competed you can’t ask any more than that.
“I think the team that have started tonight have done very, very well. Looking ahead to Saturday and the game at Northallerton, I think tonight’s given me food for thought. Dan’s come in and done very, very well. He just made that one error but apart from that I’m really, really happy with him. For Dan there’s no doubting his goalkeeping ability. I’ve always said to him that I trust him. He just needs to cut the mistakes out and if he can do that, we’ve got one hell of a keeper so I’m happy with him tonight. The centre half pairing of Lowery and Taylor, well they’ve soaked everything up that they had to and Jake Martindale probably doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves but it was a hard role up front trying to shield the ball but he’s done that with aplomb.”