By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Saturday April 8 2017
Blyth Spartans 3-0 Halesowen Town
Blyth Spartans secured the Evo-Stik Premier League title with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Halesowen Town.
Luke Armstrong put the home side ahead on 18 minutes, before Sean Reid headed in a second five minutes after the restart.
Substitute Adam Wrightson wrapped up the scoring with six minutes to go, to start Spartans’ title celebrations in front of a superb 1167-strong Croft Park crowd.
Following the club’s midweek 1-0 win away at Rushall Olympic, Alun Armstrong opted to name an unchanged starting 11 for the visit of Halesowen. Ryan Hutchinson continued at right-back in David Atkinson’s absence, while Jordan Watson filled in alongside Nathan Buddle in the heart of defence.
With a boosted 1167-strong Croft Park crowd roaring them on, Spartans came close to an early goal after just four minutes.
Robert Dale’s whipped cross looked destined to be turned home by Reid, before it flapped away by Daniel Platt. The Halesowen stopper had to be at his best again from the resulting corner, when he punched the ball just off the head of Reid once more.
Spartans then had two good shouts for a penalty ignored on 11 minutes – as Dan Maguire was brought down by Platt chasing Armstrong’s cross. Referee C Keightley pointed instead for a corner, which again saw Croft Park erupt – after the ball struck the arm of Ethan Delaney in the area with his hands above his head.
Another corner two minutes later saw Blyth go close once again, with Nathan Buddle forcing a header towards goal at the far post. Platt was able to hold it well on the line though.
Dale then tried his luck with a long drive from the left just after the 15-minute mark, but a Halesowen head was able to help the ball just evade the top of the bar.
Spartans’ early dominance was finally rewarded in the 18th minute though, when a fantastic lofted ball from Dale released Armstrong in the area. The 20-year-old took it down and feinted a shot, before rolling the ball in off the post with his marker left utterly perplexed.
The home side should have doubled their lead soon after, when a scintillating passage of play ended with Dale picking out Reid at the back post. With an almost open goal to aim at, the midfielder somehow managed to fluff his lines and put it wide.
Another headed effort should have resulted in Blyth doubling their lead just after the half hour, when Jarrett Rivers’ cross was headed clear as far as David McTiernan. The midfielder’s header looked to be going wide until Armstrong nodded it towards goal, but somehow the ball went over from only a few yards out when he really should have scored.
In what was beginning to become a sense of déjà vu for the Croft Park faithful, Dale once again picked out Reid at the back stick on 37 minutes. Although he was faced with a tighter angle than his previous miss, Reid could still only find the side netting.
One minute later, Maguire picked the ball up on the right and went on a darting run towards goal. He jinked inside and tried to curl one in from the edge of the area, but Platt thwarted him with an outstanding save to keep Halesowen in the game at the break.
Halesowen came out looking to spoil the promotion party straight from the restart, when Andre Johnson broke through and chipped Paul Woolston on 48 minutes. The on-loan Newcastle United stopper clattered into the forward, but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside before Town could shout for a penalty.
If the visitors had hoped that would kick-start their fortunes in this match, it was short lived – as Blyth grabbed a second just two minutes later.
A hard strike from Armstrong was forcibly punched away by Platt, but he was helpless moments later – as Dale’s corner picked out Reid, who finally headed home with his third attempt of the afternoon.
Top scorer Maguire went in search of a goal himself, but could only fire wide across Platt on 52 minutes when he was picked out perfectly in the area by Michael Liddle. ‘Nipa’ then slid in trying to turn home a cross soon after, but Halesowen’s defence managed to defy the laws of physics and clear the ball over the bar from a yard out.
Another Rivers cross caused Town all sorts of problems, when it fell perfectly for Dale at the far post. The Spartans captain fierce half-volley looked set to smash the back of the net, but was headed behind on the post.
Reid, buoyed by his earlier goal, tried to double up with 12 minutes to go from the edge of the Town box. However, Platt was able to get his body behind the ball to keep it out.
Spartans weren’t to be denied a third though and it came through a beautiful Blyth break on 84 minutes. Dale chipped the ball up over Platt from the byline and Wrightson – who had come on for Armstrong two minutes earlier – raced in to beat his man and send Croft Park in hysterics once again, with shouts of “Championes” ringing out around the ground.
Spartans – who remained on the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate with the Blyth fans – will now have a full week to enjoy their title triumph, before they travel to Ashton United for their final away game of the season next Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Hutchinson, Liddle, Reid, Buddle, Watson, Rivers (Pattison 74), McTiernan (Laidler 84), Maguire, Armstrong (Wrightson 82), Dale.
Subs not used: Pell, Cartwright.
Halesowen Town: Platt, Steele, Stead (Milne 82), Denny, Taylor, Charlton, O’Neil-Martin (Diop 74), Bragoli, Johnson, Delaney (Skeldon 86), Chilton.
Subs not used: Lewis, O’Day.
Referee: C Keightley
Spartans Man of the Match: Robert Dale