TEENAGE keeper Joe Whitney was the Heybridge Swifts hero after being called up for his Isthmian North Division debut during the warm-up prior to the goalless draw at second-placed Felixstowe and Walton United, writes JON LONGMAN.

The youngster excelled in defusing the hosts’ aerial bombardment when he was called off the bench before the kick-off because number one choice Noah Phillips was caught in motorway traffic on his way to Suffolk.

Felixstowe’s Joshua Hitter delivered more than a dozen probing long throws from both sides of a testing grass surface, but Whitney was in total command of his area, confidently handling the hosts' missiles.

Swifts manager Steve Tilson said: “Joe did ever so well and he was really good. I’m ever so pleased for him, keeping a clean sheet in what I think was his first league game.

“It probably helped that he didn’t realise that he was going to play until quite late.

“I think Joe only had one save to make to his right.

“Obviously, Noah got stuck on the M11 and he is probably still there now!”

Whitney was well and truly protected by captain Quba Gordon and his fellow defenders in a tremendous backs to the wall display to deny Felixstowe any joy from seven corners in addition to Hitter’s long throws.

The injury-hit Swifts plight of also playing without suspended midfield players Lee Noble and Ben Sartain meant that they had to field three full backs [Danny Nesbitt, Kane Munday and Rob Bagnall], giving them what was effectively a back five to thwart Felixstowe’s ambitions.

When the Swifts escaped from their defensive straitjacket, Jack Adlington-Pile came close to snatching a surprise away win with a couple of half chances, ably supported by Luca Albon who fired inches wide when gifted an opportunity.

Following up their 2-1 win over table-topping Lowestoft, Swifts boss Tilson added: “This was a workmanlike performance. We dug in. We were fantastic at the back and defended our box ever so well.

“We really limited them. They threw the ball at us and dominated possession but didn’t create too many chances.

“This is a fantastic result for us with what we’ve got available at the moment.

“I am really pleased with the boys because they worked ever so hard. It was tough out there.

“Four points out of six against the top two clubs is a great return from the last two games.”