By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Tuesday October 4 2016
Blyth Spartans 0-3 Warrington Town
Blyth Spartans were left cursing their luck in their comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Warrington Town – as they frustratingly hit the woodwork three times in this Evo-Stik Premier League clash.
Tom Peers and Scott Metcalfe put Town two goals up within the first 20 minutes, before Andrew Cartwright rattled both the post and the bar moments before the break.
Ciaran Kilheeney rounded off the scoring with a fantastic solo effort on 65 minutes, before Luke Armstrong and Robert Dale both saw efforts bounce clear off the frame of the Warrington goal.
With star striker Daniel Maguire forced to sit out with a calf injury, young striker Armstrong was deployed up top on his own and Sean Reid sat in behind. With Reid on seven goals for the season in all competitions, he would surely have hoped that this more advanced role would help him bear down on Maguire at the top of the club’s goal scoring standings.
Jarrett Rivers started the game very well for the hosts and dictated their opening spells of play in the opening five minutes, twice causing panic in the Warrington back-line. Both times saw the former Blackpool winger jink into the box from the right, but he saw his first shot go wide on three minutes and then could only fire wide two minutes later.
Ten minutes into the contest, Metcalfe fired a warning shot across goal from the left that required Adam McHugh to dive to his left to parry it behind. That warning shot was ignored, however, as Town took the lead a minute later – following the resulting set-piece.
After the initial clearance from the corner, the ball was played back down the right wing and in towards Peers. Free and in space in the middle of the box, the Warrington striker was able to convert with the simplest of headers and nod past McHugh.
Things looked to get even worse for Spartans, when Kilheeney easily slotted home in the 17th minute – after the ball bobbled about in the Blyth box. However, the striker – who famously punched the ball off the line without punishment for Droylsden in an FA Trophy tie at Croft Park back in 2011 – didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the linesman this time, as he was rightly flagged offside.
Just as Warrington’s last warning resulted in a goal one minute later, history repeated itself – as Town doubled their lead within 60 seconds of Kilheeney’s effort being ruled out.
Some excellent play from the visitors saw them turn up the pressure and force another fine save from McHugh. However, the ball managed to fall perfectly to Metcalfe on the left and he fired home with no mistake across goal.
Two goals inside seven minutes had obviously rocked Blyth, but the home side were cruelly unable to halve the deficit four minutes later – as some fantastic defending denied them an instant response.
Michael Liddle cut the ball back across the goal from the byline, which ran into the path of Matthew Pattison. The former Newcastle United midfielder tried to place on into the bottom corner, but his effort was hacked away by a Warrington foot on the line.
Blyth then had another chance to get themselves back into the game, when Pattison looked to have turned provider just prior to the half-hour mark.
His cross picked out Dale at the edge of the box. The Spartans’ captain tried to curl one into the top corner, but couldn’t execute his chance correctly and the ball went harmlessly wide.
It’s fair to say that Warrington is a town more associated with Rugby League than Football, but a succession of questionable tackles and kick-chase from both sides would have had some of the Croft Park faithful questioning just which sport they’d paid to watch.
However, in the dying seconds of the first half, Cartwright had a try at goal and nearly converted it. His cross-shot from the right was heading more towards the back post than he had planned – as the ball cannoned off both bar and post with Karl Wills well beaten.
Spartans manager Alun Armstrong sensed Spartans needed a change to try and reinvigorate themselves in the second half, so he replaced Reid with Michael Richardson and looked to provide more support for Armstrong junior at the spearhead of the attack.
Despite that attacking change, it was the same defender that went close before the break that had the first real chance of the second half.
A great Blyth break saw the ball played to Rivers on the right, with Cartwright bursting forward in support. The winger laid the ball back to his teammate at the edge of Town’s box, but Cartwright’s shot could only clear the crossbar.
It was that man Cartwright again who went close three minutes after the hour mark, when he cut in from the right and ghosted towards the edge of the area. He opted to try to curl one inside the top corner of the far post, but it went over once more.
If that was frustrating for Spartans to witness, it was nothing compared to events two minutes later – as Warrington went even further ahead.
Kilheeney was played in following a one-two and showed sheer class by dancing through the Blyth back-line with comfortable ease. The run was lovely and it was topped off fittingly with a calm and collected finish – as he gently rolled the ball past McHugh.
Despite being three goals down, Blyth continued to try and claw themselves back into the game and Rivers went close on 69 minutes – as he struck one from 30 yards. The ball was dipping as soon as it left his foot, but it still only nestled on top of the Warrington net.
If Rivers nearly found the net, then Armstrong went as close as he could to scoring without raising his hands in celebration. His backwards header from Richardson’s cross flew past Wills, but bounced clear off the bar and away from danger.
Substitute Matthew Wade – on for Pattison in the 66th minute – played a fantastic through ball for Armstrong within six minutes of coming on. The young striker was felled in the area by John Shaw, causing the Spartans supporters to roar for a penalty, but the Warrington defender had appeared to win the ball first with his sliding tackle.
Spartans had been frustrated by hitting the woodwork twice already, but it was to get even more infuriating from a free-kick on 72 minutes.
Dale stepped up for the right-wing set-piece and aimed a shot at the far post. Wills remained static and watched the ball go past him, but Dale’s shot rattled the stanchion of post and bar to give the Warrington stopper yet another reprieve.
That pretty much summed up a very disappointing night for Spartans – as the game fizzled out in the final ten minutes. The Croft Park faithful will be hoping for a vast improvement from their side, when Blyth play host to Mickleover Sports on Saturday afternoon.
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Cartwright, Liddle, Turnbull (Nicholson 66), Buddle, Hutchinson, Rivers, Pattison (Wade 66), Armstrong, Reid (Richardson 46), Dale.
Subs not used: Caines, Bell.
Warrington Town: Wills, Wylie, Nicholas (Knight 90), Lenighan, McCarten, Shaw, Harries, Kinsella, Killheeney, Peers (Gillespie 90), Metcalfe.
Subs not used: O’Donnell, Ventre, Grogan.
Spartans Man of the Match: Jarrett Rivers
Armstrong Has Strong Words For Spartans Squad Following Woeful Warrington Performance
Alun Armstrong had a damning message for his Blyth Spartans squad following their disappointing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Warrington Town – as their “pedestrian” play angered the new manager in just his second game in charge at Croft Park.
After an encouraging start to his managerial reign with a point against a strong Spennymoor Town side last week, Armstrong was close to tearing his hair out after seeing his side limp lamely to their fourth defeat in five games on Tuesday.
And the former Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough striker didn’t mix his words regarding the performance – as he highlighted their lack of effort and called for his players to perform for him or risk being replaced.
Armstrong said: “First ten minutes, we were knocking the ball around well and we looked really creative. All of a sudden, once we conceded, you could see the confidence sap out of them.
“That’s a shame – as they are good footballers. I could go out there myself and just bounce the ball around in front of people and not be effective though, so they need to start affecting games and they need to look at themselves and ask themselves ‘What did I really do in that game?’ and I could count on one hand collectively what someone did in that game.
“That one that hit the woodwork from Carty could have changed the game if it goes in just before the end of the half, but you get what you deserve in football. it would have been a travesty if we’d been able to escape with anything from that game though, because the lads would have went away thinking they had done well and that’s nowhere near where they should be.
“If they want to play here, then they need to lift their work-rate and really show me that they really want to be here. I’ve told them that I don’t want to have to bring players in, because I’ve been told we’ve got a good group, but I’ll go out and bring players in if I have to.
“They’re getting first shot at it and it’s the first time I’ve seen most of them in these last two games. At the minute, I don’t know what I’ve got – as we’ve been very up and down so far and I need them to show me what they’re capable of.”
Blyth had ended a three-game losing run with that hard-fought point against Spennymoor, but returned to their seemingly old ways with a woeful performance and result against Warrington.
Armstrong admitted: “We just went from one extreme to the other. You could see that they wanted to play last Tuesday, the work ethic was there and they want to play for each other.
“You look at that performance and, bar the first ten minutes, you get the complete opposite. I thought we started bright in the first ten minutes but – once the goal goes in – I saw a different set of kids, to be honest.
“We seemed to fold and not many people wanted the ball. When they had the ball, they wanted to play in front of people and not in the dangerous areas in behind.
“It was flat. It was pedestrian, some of the way we were playing at times. Like I say, I could have gone out and done what half of them were doing out there, which is what I told the lads at half-time.
“There’s been five games now where, perhaps, the performances haven’t been good enough and I’ve been told they’re a good group when I came in. I’ve been brought in to help them with the tactical side and give them a little bit of knowledge, but if we don’t work hard then we’re going to get beat.
“For me, Warrington worked twice as hard as we did tonight and I think everyone who saw that would agree. The fans were getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated as well, so that can only be the players.”
Having seen his side stop the rot with a clean sheet in their last game, the Blyth boss was left bemoaning his decision to switch back to the formation favoured by his predecessor Tom Wade – after seeing Warrington sink his side with three goals.
Armstrong added: “If you don’t put a shift in, you’re not going to get a result. I keep saying that to them and that’s the first thing they have to do.
“That’s why I put them in a 4-4-2 against Spennymoor. Then I got told that they love to play football and they keep the ball really well, so we go into the match in a 4-3-3 and it’s so slow and pedestrian.
“You can’t play football like that.”
While he partly took the decision to switch back to 4-3-3 because of the players’ preference to it, the calf injury suffered by Daniel Maguire in that draw with Spennymoor meant Armstrong was unable to play his favoured two up front – as a late replacement was unable to be brought into the club before Tuesday’s game.
He explained: “Nipa [Maguire] is a massive miss. I’ve been trying to get someone in, but it fell through at the last minute and that also massively affected how I chose to set up for the game.
“It’s so frustrating when you’ve gone from such a good, solid start to having to change your system straight away because we don’t have the backup there.
“Young Zak [Atkinson] wasn’t available either, so I had no other strikers and – unfortunately – Luke had do the lone man role up front. In a way, I think it was a really difficult task for him – as we weren’t looking forwards anywhere near enough as we should be and I think everyone in the crowd could see that.
If his son’s job of leading the line wasn’t hard enough for the young striker to begin with, then Sean Reid and Matty Pattison opting to play deep alongside Stephen Turnbull only added to the burden – as Armstrong senior was left infuriated with his only forward’s isolation up top.
Armstrong said: “That was the biggest thing – as you could see we were just standing telling them [both] to get up the pitch and I couldn’t understand – even though I’d gone through it all with them – why they were all coming to sit and play as a flat midfield.
“Why they were wanting to get the ball forward playing like that, I don’t understand. Even if it goes forward to Luke, then he’s got no support and that’s what’s really frustrating.
With Spartans playing host to Mickleover Sports on Saturday afternoon, Armstrong revealed that he is expecting his players to put in a much better performance to halt their slide down the Evo-Stik Premier League table.
Armstrong said: “I’ve asked them for a big response on Saturday. It’s only them that can change it, not me.
“I can go and show them the tactics, tell them to do this and that etc but, unless they cross the line and work hard for each other, it’s them that will get the flak. Yes, some of it comes back to me, but it’s them lot that aren’t willing to put the work in – and if that happens – they can move on and I’ll bring someone else in.
“I’m already looking, obviously, with Nipa still expected to be out for another week or two and I’m trying to get someone else in that fits his type of mould. We have a few similar strikers here, but Maguire is unique.
“He is very quick, he closes people down, he nicks things and he can create sheer havoc. We don’t have anyone else like that, so I think that’s what we’re short of at present.”