MATCH REPORT: Spartans play-off hopes are five alive with crushing win at Witton

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cima-mip-logo-2.jpgWitton Albion 1-5 Blyth Spartans
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Wincham Park
Saturday 18th April 2015
Attendance: 364

A game with monumental pressure on both sides saw Witton Albion crack with a shambles of a defensive performance that played its part in handing three points to a grateful Spartans. Errors handed Dan Maguire a brace and an own goal by Albion skipper Jon Shaw gifted Spartans three of their five goals but they did show enough quality to suggest they would have won the game regardless. Something shown by a goal of the season contender for Dan Hawkins and a clinical finish by Craig Lynch, his first goal in Spartans colours.

There were changes from Tuesday’s home draw with Matlock Town as Dan Hawkins replaced Damen Mullen and Stephen Turnbull came in for Jarrett Rivers.

Despite the pressure on both sides to get the win the game started in a rather lacklustre fashion. A low-key, almost pre-season friendly atmosphere enveloped Wincham Park and it wasn’t until the fifteen minute mark that there was a chance of note and it fell to the hosts.

Winger Josh Hancock cut in from his right wing position and eased his way past Alex Nicholson before playing in Alex Titchiner. The striker’s first touch was perfect and took him in behind the Spartans back four but nerves seemed to get the better of him and he lashed over the bar from twelve yards.

Spartans hit back with their first chance moments later and despite being renowned for a more stylish brand of football, the chance came from a route one ball from Danny Hawkins. That caught out the Albion back four and after holding off the physical attentions of John Shaw, Dan Maguire forced Andy Robertson into a sharp stop down to his left.

The hosts took the lead in the twenty third minute with a goal that really summed up the opening quarter of the game. Titchener found space on the right hand side of the Spartans area and crossed and found the head of Michael Simpson, however he failed to make sufficient contact to force the ball goalwards. His header did, somewhat fortunately, fall to Josh Hancock prodded goalwards but was denied by Nick Thomson. Luke Clark was alert to the rebound and forced it over the line to give Albion the lead.

Titchener was proving to be a constant menace for Spartans back four and the former Fleetwood striker really should have doubled his side’s lead moments after their opener. A lightening quick break from a Spartans free kick found Titchener one-on-one with Dan Hawkins. He forced his way past the Spartans right back but hesitated to get his shot away and Thomson managed to pounce on the loose ball and the danger, for now, was gone.

Spartans got back on level terms, slightly against the run of play, with a goal that was down to the sloppy play of Albion keeper Robertson. After collecting a simple back pass he dallied on the ball and allowed Michael Richardson to steal it from him. The former Newcastle United midfielder then rolled it back to Dan Maguire and he rolled it into the net for one of the most simple goals he will score in his career.

That is until four minutes later when another defensive error handed Spartans the lead. Albion right back Liam Goulding matched the indeciseness shown by his number one and allowed Robbie Dale to rob him of possession before finding Maguire who was left with a goal as simple, and it should be said as comical, as his first.

In a half with little sign of class and quality there was little to enthuse about for football purists, that was until three minutes before the break when Dan Hawkins provided Wincham Park with one of the goals of the season. A loose ball fell to the full back twenty five yards from goal and there seemed little danger, that proved to be rather incorrect as Hawkins crashed a volley that dipped into the bottom right hand corner of the net. A sublime and lethal a finish as you could wish to see.

Remarkably, with the game edging towards the interval, the hosts inflicted another blow on themselves, with Spartans players simply stood in amazement as Albion captain John Shaw rolled a backpass past his own keeper and into the net to round off one of the most surreal halves of football you could wish to see.

With the late-April heat surrounding Wincham Park the second half was something of a slow burner. Indeed the second half didn’t show any signs of life until after the hour mark as the hosts came within an inch of pulling a goal back. It was Danny Andrews who was the man who almost provided it as he burst towards the edge of the Spartans area before unleashing a low drive that deflected past the near post off the knee of Danny Parker.

Spartans extended their lead with just over twenty minutes left on the clock with a goal of the highest quality as they cut apart the Albion back four with an incisive passing move. Alex Nicholson and Dan Maguire combined well down the left before the latter rolled the ball back to Craig Lynch and the former Sunderland youngster expertly rolled the ball into the far corner.

With the game lumbering towards its conclusion the hosts would have pulled a goal back with a chance for striker their one bright spark on the day, Alex Titchener. The little striker found himself a yard of space and lashed at shot towards Nick Thomson’s near post but the Spartans number one produced a magnificent stop to deny Titchener a goal his endeavour deserved.

The game petered out and as referee Mather blew the full time whistle he brought down the curtain on a solid display from Spartans, although they were thankful for three horrendous errors by their hosts. The play-off hopes are alive, although a win at Trafford is now absolutely crucial for Tom Wade’s side. Still fighting, still hoping, still alive.

Witton Albion: Robertson, Goulding, Dawson, Jn Shaw, Barnes, Simpson (Parker 51), Hancock, Corbett, Titchiner, Clark (Joe Shaw 51), Andrews Subs not used: Chrisokhou, Schofield, Porter Goals: Clark 23

Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Hawkins, Bramley, Parker, Hooks, Turnbull, Richardson (Wearmouth 72), Maguire, Wade (Lynch 66), Dale (Davis 80) Subs not used: Rivers, Cummings Goals: Maguire 34 and 38, Hawkins 42, Jn Shaw 45 og, Lynch 69

Referee: Simon Mather

Posted by BSAFC Admin