Blyth Spartans suffered their first defeat in almost 3 months following a controversial afternoon at Croft Park.
The score-line far from tells the full story of a match which saw the hosts go behind through an own goal, fall victim to a blunder from the referee and fail to convert a crucial second half penalty.
A crowd of 517 witnessed an entertaining encounter but still no victory for the green and whites in 2011.
Both sides had chances to go ahead in the opening stages. Droylsden’s Lewis Killeen tested Mark Gillespie with a powerful shot from the edge of the area which the goalkeeper tipped over the crossbar. At the other end John Alexander and Paul Brayson combined to set up Stephen Turnbull in the box who looked disappointed with his sliced effort which went wide of the upright.
The visitors took the lead on 23 minutes in fortuitous circumstances. Luke Holden delivered a dangerous free kick in to the area which deflected off the head of Blyth’s Callum Morris and ended up in the back of the Spartans net.
Mick Tait’s side didn’t allow their heads to drop and it took them just 2 minutes to get back on level terms. Chris Swailes met a Turnbull corner with his head only to see his effort bounce off the surface and hit the crossbar. Thankfully Brayson was on hand to header in his 13th goal of the season, despite Paul Phillips’ best efforts to claw the ball away from goal. The referee took a quick look at his linesman who confirmed the ball did indeed cross the line.
Just as the home support sensed Blyth could build on the equaliser they saw their team go behind again on 34 minutes. Gillespie saved from James Vaughan but the rebound fell kindly for David McNiven who was left with the simplest of headers from 6 yards.
Blyth’s player of the month for December, Wayne Buchanan made an outstanding last ditch tackle to deny Jody Banim a strike at goal before Turnbull almost released Brayson in the opposite box with a cleverly disguised pass.
The Spartans players went in to the break trailing 2-1 but it was obvious they took Mick Tait’s half time team talk on board as they emerged from the dressing room a different side.
Brayson hit a cross-shot which evaded everyone in a green and white shirt and went out of play for a goal kick. Nicky Deverdics then blazed over from the edge of the area.
Blyth looked the most likely to get the next goal and many around Croft Park thought they’d done just that in the 53rd minute. Alexander was released down the left by Turnbull and the powerful forward surged through the Droylsden defence before clipping the ball over Phillips from a tight angle in to the back of the net. Bizarrely, referee Mr Sharp blew his whistle just as Alexander was about to take his shot – for an earlier infringement by a Droylsden player. The referee realised he had made a mistake and was quick to apologise to Mick Tait for the incident which was of little comfort to the Blyth manager.
Blyth did manage to get a deserved equaliser five minutes later when Deverdics hit a shot which was palmed in to the air by Phillips and Michael Tait was in the right place to head home his second goal of this calendar year.
Having pegged the visitors back twice, Blyth were now the favourites to take all three points from this fixture. They looked even more likely on 65 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty for a foul on Robert Dale by Droylsden captain Lewis Killeen. Brayson stepped up but his spot kick along with the follow up by Michael Tait were well saved by Phillips.
The Croft Park faithful must have felt it just wasn’t going to be their day and these fears were confirmed in the 82nd minute when Droylsden took the lead again when McNiven slid the ball in at the front post to score his second of the match. There wasn’t to be another comeback from Blyth and to rub salt in to Spartans wounds the visitors scored a fourth with the last kick of the game when Dan Gardner made a strong run towards goal and finished well past Gillespie.
After six games without conceding at home, letting in four at Croft Park in one match was disappointing for Blyth manager Mick Tait, he said: “We weren’t as compact as we have been, there were too many big gaps on the pitch. We allowed Droylsden far too much time and space and conceded four sloppy goals by our standards.”
Tait was however impressed with the way his team reacted after his half time team talk: “We were sluggish in the first half and second to everything but after the break we looked like the team who were going to win it. I told the players that the passing had to be quicker and we were definitely a lot sharper in the second half.
“We deserved to take something out of the game but that’s football. The lads are really disappointed because they feel things have gone against us tonight but we’ve just got to get on with it.”
Blyth make the trip to Warwickshire on Saturday, to face Nuneaton Town in the Blue Square Bet North. This is followed by the FA Trophy game against Altrincham on Saturday January 15th at Croft Park.
Blyth Spartans: Gillespie, Groves, Morris, Tait, Swailes, Buchanan, Deverdics, Turnbull, Brayson, Alexander, Dale.
Droylsden: Phillips, Vaughan, Brownhill, Cryan, Hardicker, Gardner, Killeen, Conner, McNiven, Banim (Rouse), Holden.
Referee: Mr Sharp.