Spartans fell to an agonising 1-0 defeat away to Scarborough Athletic on Tuesday evening as Harry Green’s stoppage-time strike proved to be a crucial blow to Graham Fenton’s side’s perfect beginning to the 2023/24 National League North campaign.
Lewis Knight made his first competitive start for the Club, as new signing Elliot Forbes, who was confirmed pre-match having joined on loan from Gateshead, debuted in midfield replacing the absent Jordan Hickey.
The hosts were presented with the opening chance of the clash inside three minutes as Frank Mulhern was picked out in the penalty area to glance a header wide of the mark.
Just moments later, Lewis Knight created an opening on the left flank to loft a cross towards the back post for JJ O’Donnell to turn goalward; his resulting header was swept away from the goal line, though, as it caught Ryan Whitley out of position in the Scarborough goal.
A series of corners followed for The Seadogs leading up to 10 minutes on the clock. Nicky Deverdics made a vital block at the near post before Kieran Weledji nodded wide from close range.
On 12 minutes, Jack Bodenham was nudged out of making a clean attempt on goal having created an opening from Deverdics’ in-swinging corner before Elliot Forbes’ enticing cross in the next phase of play just evaded the run of Deverdics who darted towards the back post.
Momentum instantly switched as Mulhern was set into the penalty area with a clear sight of goal, however, his effort rattled the post and rebounded to safety for Spartans.
Mitchell was called into action to make his first save of the matchup on 15 minutes diving well to his right-hand side to keep out Bailey Gooda’s header.
Knight then took charge of a loose ball on 22 minutes, pouncing on Weledji’s short-headed clearance. The Gateshead loanee skipped past a defender before unleashing an effort from 30-yards out which took a deflection seeing Whitley back peddle to adjust and gather the ball to release the pressure for his side.
Blyth were able to play their intricate, passing game to a much greater extent. It was now the hosts who needed to resort to breakaways which they duly did to good effect with pace down the flanks.
The Spartans won several corners as the first half reached its conclusion but were unable to find a final killer ball or clear-cut opportunity.
The concluding action of the first half saw Michael Liddle instrumental in keeping the score level with a superb, and vital, clearing header as two Scarborough players closed in on him and the Blyth goal.
Half-time: Scarborough Athletic 0-0 Blyth Spartans
JJ O’Donnell had picked up an injury near the end of the first half, bravely challenging for the ball in the opposition’s penalty box, and did not emerge for the resumption of play. He was replaced by Curtis Round.
The busy Will McGowan for Spartans was fouled by Will Thornton early on. The home captain received a yellow card for his troubles and the resulting free-kick resulted in a Knight long-range effort which went wide.
Mitchell had to be ever-alert as Scarborough came forward but the Blyth ‘keeper never looked unduly troubled.
The Spartans showed their intent as they took the game to their opponents. A Round cross only just eluded Hooper, before a fine, surging run by Deverdics was only just snuffed out on the edge of Scarborough’s penalty area. The home side were getting somewhat frustrated as Blyth were proving tough opposition and decisions, they thought, were going against them.
With less than 10 minutes of this pulsating game remaining Blyth brought on Charlie Aitkin for Knight.
On the 89th minute, it appeared, to all intents and purposes, that Rhys Evans had saved the day for his side as he somehow got in front of Scaborough’s substitute Charlie Marshall in the penalty box to clear what looked to have probably resulted in a goal.
But in added time Blyth were dealt a cruel outcome when a slightly scuffed shot across goal from Harry Green ended up in the corner of the Mitchell’s net. It was a hammer blow to the ever-willing visitors who had put on a resolute performance of quality football.
Full-time: Scarborough Athletic 1-0 Blyth Spartans
Scarborough Athletic: Ryan Whitley, Kieran Weledji, Lewis Maloney, Will Thornton, Bailey Gooda, Alex Purver, Frank Mulhern, Luca Colville, Dom Tear (Charlie Marshall, 76’), Curtis Durose (Harry Green, 65’), Alex Brown.
Subs not used: Joe Cracknall, Jake Charles and Nick Hutton.
Goals | Harry Green 90+2’
Blyth Spartans: Alex Mitchell, Rhys Evans, Michael Liddle, Finn Cousin-Dawson, Jack Bodenham, Elliot Forbes, Nicky Deverdics, JJ O’Donnell (Curtis Round, 46’), Lewis Knight (Charlie Aitken, ), JJ Hooper.
Subs not used: Harrison Clark, Rio Joisce and Jon Shaw.
Spartans are back in league action on Saturday afternoon when they face off against Hereford at Croft Park.