Report by Dan Simmonite
In association with:
Alan McLean FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Consultant
Vanarama National League North
Non League Day
Saturday October 7 2017
Blyth Spartans 6-3 Nuneaton Town
A hat-trick from Dale Hopson, including two goals from the penalty spot helped Spartans move up to 3rd in the Vanarama National League North in a nine goal thriller at Croft Park.
Ashley Chambers had given the visitors a first half lead, but a brace from Dan Maguire, and one of those Hopson penalties, saw Blyth take a two-goal lead into half-time.
Niall Heaton reduced arrears early in the second period gave the visitors hope, but an error from Town ‘keeper Dean Lyness saw Hopson make it 4-2, David McTiernan adding a fifth minutes later with an exquisite lobbed finish.
Substitute Jordan Laidler was then sent off for a high challenge, before Maguire was hauled down in the area – Hopson completing his hat-trick with a second spot kick.
There was still time for Nuneaton striker Chambers to net a consolation, but Spartans took the spoils on Non League Day.
Spartans started the game confidently with Robbie Dale gaining some good possession on the left hand side. This led to a lofted through ball, just over the head of Dan Maguire who was unlucky to not bring the ball down as the keeper beat him to it.
Minutes later, Luke Trotman was dispossessed by Ian Watson before laying off for Dale – who found Dan Maguire with a fantastic 40 yard pass – his ball squared across goal couldn’t find a green shirt and was cleared.
Nuneaton’s first chance of the game followed on 11 minutes when the Spartans defence failed to deal with Chambers on the edge of the box – allowing the striker to tee up Luke Trotman who stung the palms of Peter Jameson in the Spartans goal.
A glorious chance came for Spartans on 14 minutes, Hopson switched the ball to Adam Wrightson on the far right who fizzed in to an unmarked McTiernan on the penalty spot; however, the midfielder failed to connect properly with his volleyed attempt and the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
The first goal of the game came in favour of the away side, after an advantage played by the referee which allowed Nuneaton to push onto the edge of the box and release Chambers who rounded the ‘keeper and hit the back of the net from a tight angle – despite Cartwright’s efforts to clear off the line.
After the first goal Spartans’ chances were few and far between, and the nerves showed when Watson’s back pass was intercepted by the Jordan Nicholson. The midfielder then played through Alex Henshall who found himself one-on-one with the keeper – Jameson coming out on top in this occasion.
Nuneaton could have made it two on 30 minutes when Nicholson scuffed his shot from just a few yards out after a fast paced attack and a one-two with Chambers – a relief for the Spartans’ defence who had faced an onslaught of Nuneaton attacks early on in the first half.
It was on the 37th minute that Spartans equalised with a long ball from the back by Jameson, which was flicked on by Dale, and latched onto by Maguire who beat the ‘keeper to the ball and rolled the ball between his legs to level the score.
The Green Army pushed on after the equaliser and grew in confidence. Wrightson, who was looking lively down the right, earned a penalty on 40 minutes after some trickery in the Nuneaton box.
Hopson stepped up and scored his penalty – a powerful strike which keeper Dean Lyness could only palm into the bottom corner.
After a miraculous turn of events, Spartans looked like a new team and completed their purple patch with a fabulous strike from Maguire which sailed into the top right corner – a goal of the month contender for sure.
Just before the half time whistle Hopson nearly made it four with a 25 yard free kick which curled just wide of the post. The scoreline 3-1 to Blyth Spartans at the break.
The second half started with some heroics from goalkeeper Jameson after Spartans gave away possession in the middle of the park – the towering keeper making two point blank saves, first a one-on-one with Chambers, then a strong hand to deny Billy Daniels from the edge of the box.
Nuneaton pushed on after their initial chance and grabbed a goal back when Niall Heaton volleyed in at the back post following a cross from the right hand side.
Spartans seemed certain to respond just seconds after the Nuneaton goal when another back post cross found Sean Reid, who headed across goal, over Maguire’s head, and saved at the back post as Dale tried to touch the ball in.
A few half chances for both teams followed in the next few minutes, firstly Dale testing the keeper from a far, and in return Nicholson dabbled with a tame effort gathered easily by Jameson.
Jordan Laidler was brought into action on 62 minutes, making his return to the Spartans squad after a spell on the sidelines with an injury.
Wrightson nearly made his impact on the game in the 68th minute, the youngster cutting inside with his pace and was unfortunate to have his left footed strike blocked by the Nuneaton defence.
Nuneaton goalkeeper Lyness had a moment to forget in the 70th minute when Hopson’s tame left footed effort from just outside the area bobbled over the keepers hands and into the back of the net to ease the pressure and give Spartans a three goal cushion.
Just two minutes later McTiernan seemed to want a piece of the action and produced a fantastic looping ‘dink-shot’ from the edge of the box which rebounded off the back post and in the goal to give Spartans a 5-2 lead.
Jordan Laidler had only been on the pitch less than 20 minutes when – in the 80th minute – he was called over by the referee after showing his studs when tackling Exodus Geohaghon. He was subsequently sent off by the referee, leaving Spartans with 10 men.
Spartans managed to keep onto the ball and gain some good possession despite being a man down – this lead to a foul on Dan Maguire as he tried to spin his man in the area.
Dale Hopson again slotted calmly into the bottom corner from the spot to the delight of the Spartans faithful around the ground at Croft Park.
The fans had been treated to eight goals to this point, however, there was one more to come as straight from kick-off Chambers scored a close range header which would prove to be only a consolation in the end as the game ended 6-3 after four minutes of added time.
Blyth Spartans XI: Jameson; Cartwright, Buddle, Hutchinson, I Watson; Reid (Laidler), McTiernan; Wrightson (Rivers), Hopson, Dale (C); Maguire
Unused Subs: MacDonald, Liddle
Nuneaton Town XI: Lyness, Trotman, Dielna, Wildin (Mills 73), Geohaghon, Heaton, Daniels, Elliott, Chambers, Nicholson, Henshall (Nti 68).
Unused Subs: Hickey, Taylor, Gascoigne.
Spartans Man of the Match: Dan Maguire