Monday 31st August 2009
Mark Bell, Stephen Harrison, John Brackstone, Ian Graham (sub Mark Doninger 68 mins), Gareth Williams, Darren Cradock, Chris McCabe, Stephen Turnbull, Paul Brayson, Josh Gillies, Robert Dale
Subs not used – Michael Tait, Kenny Boyle, Shaun Reay, John Alexander
Craig Hawson, Lee Woodyatt (sub Simon Yeo 80 mins), Liam Brownhill, Carl Ruffer, Steve Halford, Neil Soruel, Steve Beck (sub Danny Williams 34 mins), Rob Lloyd, Tony Gray, Paul Brown (sub Alex Meechan 65 mins), Shaun Whalley
Subs not used – Lewis Craig, Mike Byron
Spartans got off to a golden start. Inside three minutes Paul Brayson advanced on goal centrally, slipped a pass to Rob Dale, overlapping on his left, and he calmly took a touch before prodding past keeper Craig Hawson.
Within a further three minutes Blyth should have increased their lead through opportunities created with their flowing football. After Chris McCabe was denied by Hawson, Ian Graham lobbed over from distance, and seconds later Darren Craddock headed Josh Gillies corner straight at the keeper.
But the visitors equalised on 7 minutes. Shaun Whalley chased Steve Beck’s hopeful punt forward and chanced his arm with an equally speculative 25-yard shot which went in past a stranded Mark Bell.
Spartan rallied both Graham and Brayson had shots blocked, and McCabe headed wide at the back post. At the other end Rob Lloyd stabbed Beck’s corner off target and Paul Brown blasted a shot off the chest of Mark Bell, who then palmed Tony Gray’s strike over following a short free-kick.
After half-time Blyth settled into a period of control that would take them close, agonisingly so, to victory. It began with that penalty denial and continued with Graham firing over and Dale shooting at Hawson.
It was rewarded on 72 minutes when Brayson’s crossfield pass found Harrison in space, and the right-back unleashed an unstoppable, swerving drive that arced round Hawson and inside his right-hand post.
But with just two minutes left, Gray cut across the edge of the box and was eased off the ball by Gareth William’s superior strength. Referee Clayton thought otherwise.
The ensuing free-kick, taken yards from the offence, was drilled at Bell by Gray, and Danny Williams headed in the rebound.