In line with this weekend’s ban on flying Blyth Spartans’ hopes of a future play off spot have been grounded till the dust settles – on the present campaign.
Manager Mick Tait believes his side’s aspirations to soar to the rarefied atmosphere of the Blue Square north top six are hampered not by volcanic fallout but voluminous finances.
“It takes a colossal amount of money to be in the upper echelons of this League,” suggested Tait.
“Virtually all the places in the play off zone are filled by clubs with massive budgets – much bigger than our own. Having said that one club can always break in to that select group, just as Workington have this season. Our aim is for that club to be Blyth Spartans next year.”
On Saturday Blyth went down 3-2 to promotion chasing Fleetwood Town at Croft Park with visitors enjoying what Tait would guess to be a players’ wages budget at least four times that of his own.
A cracking game of football saw an obdurate home side just edged out of the points by The Codmen.
Tait commented, “It was a great game played by two good sides. Not many of the top teams have outplayed us this season and this proved to be true again on Saturday. In fact before the kick-off I expected us to win. In the game at their place which we lost 4-2 they were the better side in the first half but we dominated the second so on the basis of that I knew we had enough to cause them problems.”
Blyth opened the scoring after nine minutes when leading scorer Paul Brayson riffled home from 16 yards following an excellent long pass by centre back Stephen Foster and determined work by Stephen Harrison. A poor clearance by Blyth’s Richard Pell was then picked up by Adam Warlow who drilled the ball past Mark Bell in the Spartans’ goal to equalise.
Warlow then put the visitors ahead early in the second half only for Brayson to reply two minutes later, receiving a neat through ball by Harrison to slot home from close range.
Substitute Gareth Seddon put Fleetwood back into the lead with 20 minutes to go latching on to a long through ball and steering his effort wide of Bell.
Brayson came close late on for Blyth on two occasions, firing just wide and then narrowly over the bar, as the Spartans continued to press, but to no avail.
Warlow and Brayson went into the game as joint top scorers in the League with 25 goals each.
“They both did what they do,” said Tait.
“They are different sorts of players though. Warlow is more active outside the penalty box and moves to the wings while Brayson is an out and out predator.”
The Blyth boss was disappointed with his side’s defending.
“We can score lots of good goals and work very hard to score but the problem is we give goals away very cheaply, and that has been our season,” he said.
“Whenever we give the ball away we can get hit on the break and concede – that happened against Fleetwood and it’s something we must address for next year.”
Fleetwood’s decisive third goal was a classic example of Tait’s point.
Fullback Gareth Williams had been pushing on well in support of the attack, and while Harrison was making every effort to drop from his right-sided midfield position to cover, a quick long pass found Seddon in acres of space and with time on his hands to finish.
Tait continued “We’ve shown lots of promise this year but we’ve let ourselves down by not defending as a team. And I stress as a team – I’m not just criticising the back four.
“We have scored 65 but conceded 66. If we had defended the way we need to, and not lost the ball in the final attacking third of the field so much, we could have chopped off 10 or 15 goals from that ‘against’ column and been challenging for a play off spot.
“ We must call on the experiences of this season to push on next time around.”
Tait hopes to have the bullish midfielder Chris McCabe back for next season. McCabe suffered a badly broken leg earlier in the season and has been missed.
“It’s all a question of anatomy,” said Tait. “ Chris is healing well but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll also be hoping for some additions to the squad.”
Blyth conclude their programme at Corby this Wednesday and at Gainsborough on Saturday.
Simon Todd is unlikely to be available midweek due to work commitments while Stephen Turnbull is suspended, along with Robbie Dale, for the visit to Lincolnshire.
A midtable finish to the season and Tait’s expressed wishes for the next mean that Blyth’s play off aspirations, qualified by financial reality, may remain dormant but certainly not extinct.