Report by Sam Donovan
In association with:
Alan McLean FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Consultant
Vanarama National League North
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
Blyth Spartans 0 – 1 Alfreton Town
A blustery but balmy evening in Blyth saw, the hosts succumb to defeat against a visiting Alfreton side who fought tooth and nail to claim all three points. Brendon Daniels scored the only goal of the game as Alfreton completed the double over the Spartans.
The game took a little while to get going but it was the visitors who almost fashioned the first effort of the evening. Cieran Keane brought down the ball in the box and looked to turn to fire an effort at goal from 8yds but it was smothered by Peter Jameson.
Blyth slowly grew into the game but it took until the 16th minute to create their first meaningful opportunity. Robbie Dale scampered down the left touchline and his sliding cutback was met by the diving Greg Rutherford who saw his header just go over the angle of post and bar.
Alfreton went straight down the other end and Peter Jameson had to be alert to tip a bobbling effort from Brendon Daniels wide of his near post. From the resulting corner, the ball wasn’t cleared initially and after a few nervous moments the ball was eventually hacked away.
Alfreton were almost victims of their own downfall on 21 minutes. A back pass from their captain, Craig Disley was anticipated by Greg Rutherford who forced the ‘keeper Chris Elliott to dummy the pass and concede the corner.
Spartans were forced into an early change as Ryan Hutchinson was forced off and the centrehalf was replaced by Damen Mullen which saw Sean Reid drop into the centre of defence.
Mullen almost opened the scoring as some neat interplay on the edge of the Alfreton penalty area ended with the midfielder swinging a cross in form the right that narrowly avoided nestling in the far corner with Elliott beaten.
The visitors opened the scoring on 30 minutes; a teasing cross from Ryan Jennings was whipped into the far post where an onrushing Daniels was able to bullet a header past the helpless Jameson.
Robbie Dale came close to drawing the home side level as he slalomed his way into the box past three defenders who were conscious of any touch and conceding a penalty. Dale’s run was eventually brought to a legal halt by the sliding Thomas Allan.
Once again the visitors hit back, as Christopher Sharp let fly with an effort from 22yds that forced Jameson into another full length diving save.
The Spartans who had seemed lacklustre in the first half almost responded in added time as Rutherford got away from his marker and into the box but his effort was on the stretch and Elliott was able to tip the ball over the bar.
From the resultant corner, the ball was crossed in and Sean Reid was able to climb highest and flicked the ball towards the far corner but it was blocked on the line by an Alfreton defender who was stationed on the post.
Manager Alun Armstrong looked to reinvigorate his side at half-time as he brought Dan Maguire on as he looked to provide a different forward option.
The fearsome partnership of Maguire and Hopson linked up to good effect on 53 minutes. Maguire teed the ball up for Hopson who looked to place an effort from the edge of the area but it was blocked by Thomas Platt.
The danger didn’t pass for Alfreton and the same players again linked up but this time it was Maguire who saw an effort deflected into the side netting. From the corner, Hopson again saw an effort blocked away by an Alfreton defender.
Robbie Dale was tormenting Bradley Wood down the Alfreton right and it was Dale’s persistence that saw the next opportunity present itself. Dale’s run saw Blyth win a corner and whilst the first ball was cleared, the second ball came back to Dale who drove an effort from a tight angle but it was well saved by Elliott.
It took until the 73rd minute until the next chance in the game and it fell to the Spartans. Jordan Laidler was given space 30yds from goal and the midfielder hammered in an effort which was destined for the top corner until a leaping save from Elliott kept the Reds ahead.
The home faithful were incensed by the blatant timewasting tactics being employed by the visitors as they looked to see out the game.
The visitors had seen very little of the ball in the second half but should have doubled their lead with 10 minutes remaining. The substitute, Marcus Marshall bundled his way into the box and as Jameson advanced, the striker tried to dink the ball over the ‘keeper but it was blocked by his chest.
An increasingly desperate Spartans side poured forward with minutes remaining as they looked to salvage a point. There was almost late drama in the first minute of added time as Sean Reid got across his man to glance a header narrowly wide of the far post.
However, that was as close as it got as the Spartans were unable to get a result that would have seen them close the gap on the teams above them.
Next up for the Spartans is a trip to Lincolnshire to face Boston on Saturday as they look to get back to winning ways following a slight dip in form.
Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Atkinson, Liddle, Laidler, Buddle, Hutchinson (Mullen, 23), Rivers, Reid, Rutherford (Maguire, 46), Hopson (Wrightson, 67), Dale (c).
Subs not used: Watson, I., MacDonald.
Alfreton Town: Elliott, Allan, Wood, Disley (c), Shiels, Bird, Jennings (Hodge, 75), Platt, Sharp (Johnson, 85), Daniels (Marshall, 61) Keane
Subs not used: Hodge, Everington, Topliss
Referee: Mr. Paul Brown
Spartans Man of the Match: Sean Reid