By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Saturday August 27 2016
Grantham Town 1-2 Blyth Spartans
Spartans’ skipper Robert Dale had an absolute stormer in his side’s 2-1 win over Grantham Town – as he saved a last minute penalty after scoring Blyth’s second, in a game played in thunder and lightning.
Michael Richardson netted a fantastic strike from halfway in awful conditions, before Dale slotted home from a lapse pass back from Danny Meadows. Meadows atoned for his error from the penalty spot a minute later, but was subbed off before Peter Jeffries was sent off for retaliation late on.
It was left to substitute Jamie McGhee to step up to level the scores with another penalty, but Dale pulled off a fantastic save to deny the hosts a share of the spoils at The South Kesteven Sports Stadium.
Spartans goalkeeper Jeffries was tested very early on, when Lee Shaw struck a speculative effort from the right. The ball was straight at Jeffries, however, who kept the ball out with a routine save.
Jeffries was then called up soon after, when a Grantham counter-attack saw Jack Beckett cross in from the left. Ben Saunders rose above the Blyth defence and headed the ball at goal, but the ball was straight at the safe hands of the Spartans’ stopper.
Blyth looked to have created their first real opening in the eighth minute, when Dale played a beautiful ball through to Richardson. Unfortunately, Blyth’s captain got just too much on it and Jake Turner was able to rush out and smother the ball.
A Sean Reid foul on the 15-minute mark nearly ended up in a yellow card for Stephen Turnbull – after the charismatic midfielder took exception to referee Martyn Fryer’s decision and spoke out of turn. A long word followed but, thankfully for Turnbull, the official’s yellow card stayed in his pocket.
Dale hit the bar with a free-kick against Ashton United on Tuesday night and seemed adamant to go one better with a set-piece against Town, when he lined up a strike from the left in the 18th minute. His fierce shot would surely have beaten Turner, but it was rising as soon as it left his foot.
After cursing their luck in their last game, Spartans nearly took the lead through the most unlikeliest of sources.
Jeffries – who was bemoaning Ashton’s equaliser from his clearance on Tuesday – hoofed a long ball up field. The ball appeared to be heading into the Grantham goal, which caused Turner to scramble wildly to get back and stop it from creeping in under pressure from Daniel Maguire.
They say keepers are a mad breed and Jeffries did nothing to shake that stereotype, when Grantham played a through ball over to Saunders in the box. With the striker bearing down on the ball, Jeffries showed great bravery to gather the ball just prior to a collision between the pair.
Blyth turned on the style in the 25th minute with a fantastic piece of play and perhaps deserved to opening the scoring from it.
A sweeping move saw Dale play in Andrew Cartwright down the right, who then cut the ball back to Matty Pattison at the edge of the box. He struck the ball high across goal, but it sadly cleared the crossbar.
Richardson then tried an audacious volley on the half-hour mark from the edge of the box, but he got far too much on it and it sailed over the goal.
The Grantham fans were then raging when they were denied a penalty five minutes later. Gavin Caines appeared to catch Ellis Storey in the box to knock him to the ground, but Fryer told the left-back to get back on his feet.
Spartans continued to play some lovely football, with Reid, Pattison and Maguire linking up well to get the latter into the box with the ball at his feet and his back to goal. Maguire tried to turn and shoot, but lost his footing on the turn and the defender cleared.
The visitors were caught out just before the break and were lucky to go in at half-time on level terms.
Grantham broke quickly, which allowed Beckett to pick out Lee Shaw at the back post. The striker had the goal at his mercy when he stabbed a shot at goal, but somehow managed to put it wide when it was easier to score.
Spartans struggled out of the blocks at the start of the second half at the part-time Athletics ground and were nearly caught cold by another Grantham break.
Turnbull’s corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble that was knocked up to Lee Shaw. He ran at goal and pulled the trigger, but could only watch as his shot was blocked behind.
Thunder clapped repeatedly from the skies along with torrential rain, but it was lightning that would soon strike twice – as Richardson channelled his Senior Cup strike against Heaton Stannington from last season to open the scoring on 66 minutes.
The former Newcastle United midfielder sold the sliding Town defender on halfway and spotted Turner off his line. The Grantham goalkeeper was left helpless by the audacious strike, which flew past him and nestled in the net.
Spartans were soon 2-0 up and it all came about from some instinctive play from skipper Dale. The talismanic winger perfectly read a poor backpass from Meadows, to roll the ball past Turner for his first goal of the season.
It looked to be going swimmingly for the visitors in wet conditions, but Grantham were thrown a lifeline back into the game from the penalty spot. Meadows’ fortune soon changed when he stepped up to dispatch the spot-kick past Jeffries.
Richardson then had a golden chance to score his second of the game, when he reacted quickest to Pattison’s mishit shot. Put through in the box from the shot, Richardson’s goal-bound shot was hacked away by one of the host of Grantham bodies on the line.
Two bookings for Blyth soon followed – as Jeffries was booked for time-wasting for removing his gloves to tie his laces at a goal kick, before Dale received a caution for a coming together while wasting time in the corner.
A routine free-kick save from Jeffries in added time turned into disaster for Spartans, when he was caught by a late challenge with the ball in his hands. The keeper lashed out in retaliation, which led to Fryers pointing to the spot and sending off Jeffries.
Just as he had done on this ground in September 2013, it was left to Dale to step up between the sticks for McGhee’s penalty. Usually a match-winner down the other end, Dale guessed the right way and saved the powerful penalty with his legs to claim all three points for Blyth.
Tom Wade’s side will be buoyed by Dale’s brilliant penalty save, which will give them confidence going into Monday’s away trip to Workington.
Grantham Town: Turner, Meadows (Durkin 83), Storey, Carr, Galinski, Hollingsworth, Burrows (Ryan 76), Beckett (McGhee 62), Saunders, Lee Shaw, Luke Shaw.
Subs not used: Lewis, Sinclair.
Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Cartwright, Bell, Caines, Hutchinson, Turnbull (Pell 89), Pattison (Wade 90), Richardson, Maguire, Reid, Dale.
Subs not used: Rivers, Parker, Armstrong.
Spartans Man of the Match: Robert Dale
Wade Hails Dale’s “Magical” Late Grantham Penalty Save
Spartans manager Tom Wade was delighted with match-winner Robert Dale following Blyth’s 2-1 win against Grantham Town, but couldn’t help but reveal his frustration with the two penalties conceded by his side at The South Kesteven Sports Stadium.
Blyth raced to a 2-0 lead midway through the second half thanks to Michael Richardson’s fantastic strike from the halfway line and an instinctive finish from Dale, but they were pegged back instantly after Dale’s goal – after they allowed Danny Meadows to halve the deficit from the spot a minute later.
Peter Jeffries was then sent off following an altercation with a Grantham player in the box in the dying minutes, but Spartans captain Dale kept his cool to save substitute Jamie McGhee’s penalty and win the game for Blyth.
And Wade was delighted with Dale’s determination to lead from the front in a poor performance from the Northumbrian club – after a pre-match discussion with his skipper paid dividends during the game.
Wade said: “It was one of those magical days when Robbie Dale just scores and saves a penalty. It’s what headlines are made of, isn’t it?
“He’s done it before. He did it here at Grantham before, in fact.
“I don’t think he had the best game in the world, but he’s getting better. I had a chat with him before the game and I just explained how important he is in the team, but I didn’t expect him to be that important.
“I think the lads are disappointed that we didn’t play as well as we can, but we have to understand that teams aren’t just going to let us play football.
“They closed us down and they had three on Robbie at times, which should have allowed us to open their team up and move the ball a bit quicker. We didn’t manage that against Grantham, unfortunately, but you don’t want to be going out all guns blazing this early in the season anyway.
“I think we’re in a good place at the moment and we can still get a lot better than where we are.”
Despite Dale’s save, both decisions to award Grantham a spot-kick angered Wade for different reasons – as he feels it just sums up the the fact that his side are just gifting goals to the opposition at present.
Wade said: “It was never a penalty the first one – as it was two yards outside the box, for starters. I thought it was a foul, but it was miles outside the box so that’s disappointing.
“The second one, I didn’t see it. However, when you’re away from home, you have to be squeaky clean and we’re giving teams goals. I don’t think anyone’s created a proper goal against us yet, we’ve gifted them it.
“Teams aren’t ripping us open yet, it’s just bad defending on our part. We’ll solve that though – as I think it’s just a case of getting the right defensive blend to compliment our attacking prowess.”
Dale wasn’t the only one to receive praise from the manager – as Wade insisted that he would have given his Man of the Match award to opening goalscorer Michael Richardson, who produced a similar finish to his audacious goal from halfway against Heaton Stannington in last season’s Senior Cup.
When asked if Richardson ever just scores a tap-in, Wade replied: “Well that’s his problem, he doesn’t and he needs to. I thought he worked unbelievably hard and he was one of our better players.
“He worked his socks off. We’d tried to rest him against Ashton, but he gives you everything.
“We should have went a bit more defensively, but we ended up going more attacking – as I kept the same team as I’d named on Tuesday but, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have.
“Michael’s a workhorse and he scores some special goals. He had a great game and was probably man of the match for me.”
Saturday’s result wasn’t all good news for Blyth’s boss though – as he bemoaned Jeffries’ “terrible” straight red card, which will result in a three-match ban for the Spartans stopper. However, that opens the door for Adam McHugh, who Wade insists can keep his place in the side if he performs during Jeffries’ suspension.
Wade said: “I didn’t see it, but the lads said it was stupid and that’s it. It’s terrible.
“We’ve had the fair play award for the last few years, so I’m disappointed with anything like that – as we were strolling the game. We brought a couple of defensive players on to see the game out and then we shot ourselves in the foot.
“I’m pretty disappointed that the game management was poor, but we’ll get there and we can’t have things like that happening at all. I’ll have a chat with Peter on the quiet, but now he’s going to be out for three games and he’s just given his place up to Adam McHugh.
“Adam’s been waiting around, so he’ll be able to show what he can do and – if he can do well – he’ll keep the shirt and Peter won’t play when he’s back. That’s just how football is.”
Speaking after the 3-3 draw with Ashton United, Wade stated that he would be happy with four points from the bank holiday fixtures against Grantham and Workington. However, even with a win already in the bag ahead of their trip to Cumbria, Wade won’t be settling for a point from Monday’s meeting with last season’s playoff finalists.
He said: “I was always looking for six points from this bank holiday weekend. Workington are on a bit of a poor run, but I’m expecting them to turn the corner – as they’re a good side.
“I thought Grantham were excellent as well. They worked really hard, turned us around at times and really grafted, which we had to compete with.
“At times, we were great on the ball, but we didn’t match their graft and we have to learn from that. We’re learning all the time though and I’m learning as a manager, so we’ll get there soon enough.
“If we get a point against Workington away from home, we’ll be happy. Rest assured though, we’re still going there to win.”