Blyth Spartans ran out 3-2 winners at home against Vauxhall Motors on Saturday despite badly misfiring in front of goal.
A dramatic last 10 minutes saw three goals after Blyth and, to a lesser extent, Vauxhall had squandered chances at will. Until the final flourish it was astonishing that only two goals had been scored in a game of end to end entertaining football but in which putting the ball in the back of the net appeared to be a dying skill.
Both teams started in a lively fashion and the home side could have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when a John Brackstone free kick just eluded Paul Brayson. At the other end Lee Furlong should have done better when he headed wide.
Blyth Manager Mick Tait changed his team and set up following the midweek FA Trophy defeat at the hands of Guiseley. The diamond formation with Ian Graham at the head was abandoned proving that diamonds aren’t necessarily forever. A 4-4-2 structure replaced it with Robbie Dale up front alongside Paul Brayson and with Josh Gillies wide right and Steven Turnbull wide left.
Dale showed his intent with a screaming shot just over the bar in the ninth minute while it was Brayson who broke the deadlock on the 18th minute after Dale hit a perfect 35-yard diagonal ball which found Brayson on the edge of the Vauxhall 18 yard box. He cleverly turned the defender and calmly shot high in the far corner of the net.
Blyth’s lead, however, was short lived as within two minutes a cross from the right found Lee Furlong unmarked and able to easily head past Jack Norton in the Blyth goal.
Manager Tait was disappointed with the manner of the goal but understanding too.
“It was down to bad marking. Furlong got between Brackstone and Darren Craddock who both said later that he had been in an offside position and then ran back onside as the cross came in. Basically we lost concentration and took our eyes off him but I can appreciate how it happened.”
After a period of scrappy play Blyth began to take control once more and could have gone in at half time comfortably ahead but with Brayson coming close twice and with misplaced headers from Richard Pell and Chris McCabe they had to settle for honours to be even.
The Spartans started the second period brightly with Gillies beginning to make an impact with some darting runs. However they lost centre back Pell after 60 minutes. Pell was making his first start for the club after returning from a spell with Alfreton Town.
Tait wasn’t happy with the challenge in which Pell was injured.
“Actually I think it was worse than the one for which Vauxhall had Dames sent off later in the match. Pell had to have four stitches in his shin after the Vauxhall lad’s studs had gone through the three pairs of socks and the ankle pad which he was wearing!”
Simon Todd came on for Pell and immediately impressed with his passing, vision and confidence – this despite not playing much of late. “Todd’s a very good player but his problem is that he is a little lightweight at this level. But his attitude is excellent and he is able to get the ball down and spread it around as he showed on Saturday.”
Todd was instrumental in Blyth continuing to drive forward at every opportunity. Michael Tait headed over from a Gillies cross before Vauxhall spurned two opportunities. Norton made a good diving save from the dangerous Noon before the unmarked Moogan headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Dames was sent off following a hefty coming together with Todd and, in Tait’s opinion, could consider himself a little unfortunate to be shown the red card when Todd escaped any punishment.
With 15 minutes remaining and the score still level Gillies was withdrawn and John Alexander came on as Tait changed to play with three men up front – Alexander on the right, Brayson in the middle and Dale wide left, a position he has occupied for most of the season and from which he is capable of creating, and taking, chances as was to be proven when the game reached its extraordinary finale.
Michael Tait, who was named as Man of the Match, flashed a header just over before the goals, which had been threatened, all game finally arrived.
Brayson cleverly played in Dale on the left and he calmly placed the ball past Coates in the Vauxhall goal to put Blyth head with four minutes of the 90 remaining. Blyth were devastated when, in the final minute of normal time, Vauxhall equalised with Noon lobbing the ball high over Norton into the net.
But Blyth were not finished and continued to play their carefully constructed passing game as the match went into five minutes of added time.
They got their reward when, following good work by Dale, a Brayson shot was handled in the penalty area and the same player coolly scored from the spot to give his side a 3-2 lead.
“When they equalised on 90 minutes I thought ‘ here we go again’” said boss Tait.
“It was a poor goal to give away. Norton miskicked and it looked like John Brackstone misread the flight of the ball and Noon got in behind us.”
Tait though was obviously happy with the win.
“We deserved it. The game was a little too open at times but we created so many chances it was amazing. I was always confident we’d score goals but as in the Guiseley game we’re creating, but not taking, enough of our chances. Maybe it’s down to the long lay-off and we’re a bit rusty. At the other end not many teams score great goals against us, it’s more down to our mistakes. We need to address that as well as our ability to take our chances better.”
Blyth face two tough fixtures this week with Northwich Victoria away on Tuesday and then travelling again on Saturday, this time to Fleetwood Town.
They then play Stalybridge at Croft Park on Tuesday 26th January.