Match Report | Darlington F.C. 0-0 Blyth Spartans | National League North | 2023/24

Spartans were held to a 0-0 draw on the road at Darlington on Tuesday night in National League North action. 

With a lack of attacking options available following Saturday’s defeat at home to Tamworth which saw Cedric Main and Jon Shaw withdrawn due to injury adding to the already losses of JJ Hooper and Lewis Knight, Mikael Ndjoli was recruited on a short-term loan deal from Hartlepool and received a debut up top.

JJ O’Donnell was also missing for Spartans which forced Graham Fenton to deploy Joe Oliver in a left wing-back role.

An even opening proceedings to the National League North clash were played out at Blackwell Meadows, however, the first opportunity of the fixture fell to the hosts on 18 minutes. Jim Simms glanced at Ben Liddle’s in-swinging cross from the left, which fell narrowly wide of the far post before Cameron Salkeld could make contact as he on-rushed into the six-yard box. 

Spartans’ first real opportunity on goal came just after 35 minutes as Harrison Clark’s precise pass found debutant Mikael Ndjoli who flicked the ball into the path of Will McGowan. McGowan drove into the final third, chopping onto his right foot before unleashing a curling effort from 25-yards which David Robson dived low to his left-hand side to gather.

Jordan Hickey’s strike from a loosely cleared ball took a deflection over the crossbar two minutes later before Rhys Evans lined up an effort from 35-yards which took a nick off Jonny Ngandu to be diverted inches off target on 40 minutes. 

With Graham Fenton’s side finding fluidity in their play as half-time neared, a strong spell of possession proceeded but no breakthrough or cutting edge could see the deadlock be broken before referee Jack Hall’s whistle called time on the first 45 minutes.

Half-time: Darlington 0-0 Blyth Spartans

The Quakers squandered an excellent opportunity to really test Alex Mitchell inside the first minute of the second half as a thumping header from Kieran Burton met Ngandu’s set-piece, but the attempt fell a few yards wide of the mark. 

Mitchell was called into a fine piece of goalkeeping, though, on 53 minutes; a scramble in the penalty area saw the ball break free to Jake Lawlor who placed an effort destined for the bottom left corner, however, an outstretched stop from point blank range denied the Darlington defender. 

A great piece of skill from Evans on the right flank just before the hour mark resulted in the Spartans defender dropping his to beat his marker before teeing up McGowan. The tricky midfielder glided inside five-yards before unleashing a strike on goal which required Robson to readjust and make a fairly routine save centrally.

Five minutes later, Ngandu struck a free-kick on target from 20-yards out, to the right of the penalty area, but his effort flew straight into the arms of Mitchell.

Evans exploited space on his attacking wing and utilised his pace to get to the byline before sending in an enticing cross which skimmed off the surface and out of play ahead of Ndjoli who was inches away from making contact at the pivotal moment. 

A sweeping move from Spartans involving Nicky Deverdics and Joe Oliver in the final third eventually saw the ball worked out to Hickey who hit a curling effort just over the crossbar with less than 15 minutes of the regulated 90 left on the clock. 

McGowan was once again twisting and turning entering the final third on 80 minutes, continuing to perfect his performance, as he was brought down under a challenge by Tom Platt. Deverdics shaped up to hit but played a swift back-heeled layoff for Hickey who hit a venomous strike against the defensive wall.

Neither team crafted a threatening situation in the final 10 minutes plus four of stoppage time seeing the North East rivalry between The Quakers and Blyth end in a stalemate. 

Full-time: Darlington 0-0 Blyth Spartans

Darlington | David Robson, Ben Hedley, Tom Platt, Jake Lawlor, Jonny Ngandu (Jarrett Rivers, 76′), Jacob Hazel (Andrew Nelson, 81′), Will Hatfield, Kieran Burton, Jim Simms (Hayden Lindley, 46’), Cameron Salkeld, Kallum Griffiths.

Subs not used | Toby Lees and Jordan Windass

Blyth Spartans | Alex Mitchell, Rhys Evans, Harrison Clark, Finn Cousin-Dawson, Jack Bodenham, Joe Oliver, Jordan Hickey, Elliot Forbes, Will McGowan, Nicky Deverdics, Mikael Ndjoli.

Subs not used | Michael Hogan, Charlie Aitken, Rio Joisce, Billy Gordon and Harry Arnison

Attendance | 1301

Referee | Jack Hall

Graham Fenton’s post-match assessment of Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw

Spartans return to the road on Saturday to take on Kings Lynn Town.

Posted by BSAFC Media Team