By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Vanarama National League North
Tuesday August 7 2018
Blyth Spartans 1-2 Bradford (Park Avenue)
Sean Reid’s late header wasn’t enough to cancel out Jake Beesley’s brace – as Blyth Spartans went down 2-1 against Bradford (Park Avenue) in their first home Vanarama National League North fixture of the season.
Pacey on-loan Salford striker Beesley beat the offside trap on 11 minutes to put the visitors ahead, before slotting home his second on 84 minutes to the frustration of a wasteful home side.
Blyth finally took one of their chances a minute later, when Reid nodded home from Robert Dale’s free kick. However, it was too little too late for the hosts – as they opened their season with two consecutive defeats for the second successive season.
On-loan Sunderland defender Sam Brotherton’s absence forced Alun Armstrong into just the one change from the side that started Saturday’s 3-0 defeat away at Hereford. Reid dropped back to fill the void in defence, which saw Jamie Holmes make his full debut for the club alongside Daniel Maguire up top.
There was a contrast in mood prior to kick off – as captain Robert Dale was presented with an award for reaching 600 appearances for the club at Hereford, before Croft Park observed a respectful minute’s applause for club legend Tommy Dixon who sadly passed away just prior to the start of the new season.
With just three minutes on the clock, Luca Havern’s slip near the away dugout – while trying to see the ball out – allowed Maguire to take full advantage and drive into the Avenue area. The striker cut the ball back into the paths of Connor Oliver and Holmes, but the pair got in each other’s way and the hesitation saw the latter’s shot blocked by a Bradford body.
Summer signing Holmes tore through the middle of the field and looked certain to get in at goal again six minutes later, but a cynical foul by Conor Branson stopped him in his tracks and earned the Park Avenue man a yellow card.
From the resulting free kick, Dale hit a low-driven effort towards the far post. Visiting goalkeeper Steve Drench was far from troubled by it though.
Those wasted early chances came back to haunt Spartans in the 11th minute, however, with Park Avenue taking the lead with their first real chance of the evening.
Beesley expertly broke through the Blyth backline – as Reid desperately raised his hand to appeal for offside – and rounded Peter Jameson with ease, before finishing well into an empty net.
The visitors were nearly further ahead in fortunate circumstances on 14 minutes, when the ball bobbled up into the path of Nick Wroe six yards out. The midfielder looked to be in, but lost his footing on the turn and could only stab his attempt wide.
With quarter-of-an-hour gone, Jarrett Rivers shot through a crowd of bodies from a tight angle on the right. Unfortunately for Blyth though, Dench produced a fine save at his near post to deny the winger.
Chances started to come thick and fast for the hosts – as Dale fired a free kick straight into the wall, before Holmes saw his shot blocked away from a corner four minutes later.
Oliver stepped up with 25 minutes gone to curl a 28-yard free kick around the wall and towards Dench’s far post. With no great pace on the strike, Bradford’s keeper gratefully gathered the ball down low.
Bradford should have put comfortable distance between the two sides on the half-hour mark, when Nicky Clee found himself in the Blyth area with the ball at his feet. The winger had the easiest of finishes to make it 2-0, but a strong hand from Jameson at point-blank range kept the home side just one behind.
Jameson was called into action a little further up the pitch just two minutes later, when Beesley escaped the offside trap yet again and headed towards goal. The Spartans stopper advanced deep into No-Man’s Land, but slid in with a perfectly timed tackle to thwart the forward from grabbing his second.
Another away attack on 34 minutes should really have seen Blyth equalise.
Havern failed to deal with Dale’s lofted clearance from an Avenue long throw into the box, which allowed Maguire in once again. However, last season’s top goalscorer uncharacteristically dragged his shot wide when he looked certain to score.
Beesley left Blyth’s defenders for dead with three minutes of the first half remaining, but he was unable to keep his shot down to the relief of both Nathan Buddle and Reid.
There was still time for Rivers to produce two of his trademark stepovers inside the Bradford box in first half stoppage time and drive the ball towards goal. His strike had Dench beaten, but Havern made up for his earlier defensive mistakes by hacking the ball away and denying Blyth the chance to go in level at the break.
Armstrong’s men were quick out of the traps at the start of the second half and nearly restored parity within just four minutes. Holmes cut back inside 18 yards out and fired a left-footed drive that looked to burst the back of the Bradford net. Dench produced an outstanding one-handed save, however, to keep his clean sheet intact.
Former South Shields forward Holmes was causing all sorts of bother to Bradford and had no less than three defenders scrambling with his good work on 62 minutes. He laid the ball back to Kieran Green 20 yards out, but the midfielder’s cross was unable to pick out a green and white shirt in the box.
Park Avenue had failed to threaten since the restart, but were inches away from going further ahead five minutes later. Beesley placed the ball through the legs of Jameson and wheeled away in celebration, only to see Buddle hook the ball away off the line and back off the forward for a goal kick.
Michael Liddle’s cross moments later perfectly picked out Dale in the box. The Spartans skipper calmly side-footed a first-time shot at goal, but Dench got down well to hold.
Maguire advanced towards goal with 14 minutes to go, but Shane Killock stuck to him like glue. “Nipa” was able to get a shot away, but the resolute defender was able to get his body in the way of it.
A Rivers corner three minutes later ended up with Oliver on the edge of the box. Opting to strike a curling effort toward goal, the ball looked to be sneaking in under the bar until Dench did everything he could to keep it out.
Wroe tried his luck from a 20-yard free kick on 82 minutes that looked close to going in, but Jameson confidently watched it wide.
Bradford finally grabbed a second three minutes later, with Jamie Spencer making an instant impact off the bench.
Substitute Spencer – who had replaced Chris Dawson just 60 seconds earlier – bested Buddle to ball at the edge of the Blyth box and ghosted down the left side of goal. Cutting the ball back across the face of goal, he teed up Beesley for the easiest of tap-ins in front of the very vocal travelling support.
Spartans’ heads could have been forgiven for letting their heads drop after that late setback, but they halved the deficit within a minute. Dale’s free kick picked out the head of Reid, whose low nod finally saw a helpless Dench beaten at last.
Armstrong chucked on Adam Wrightson and Bradley Fewster in order to try and salvage a point but – despite a lot of huffing and puffing in the final few moments – Spartans were unable to carve out anything that would see them register their first point of the new campaign.
Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Nicholson, Liddle, Green, Buddle, Reid, Rivers (Wrightson 85), Oliver, Maguire, Holmes (Fewster 90), Dale.
Subs not used: I Watson, Horner, Skirpan.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Drench, Toulson, Lowe, Wore, Killock, Havern, McKenna (Ross 73), Branson, Beesley, Dawson (Spencer 84), Clee.
Subs not used: Bushell, Johnson, Nowakowski.
Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Spartans Man of the Match: Jamie Holmes