By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Saturday November 5 2016
Barwell 0-2 Blyth Spartans
An impressive display from Matty Pattison helped Blyth Spartans to get the better of Barwell – as the midfielder’s two rockets illuminated an otherwise far from sparkling Evo-Stik Premier League encounter.
The flame-haired winger fired home on 21 minutes with a ferocious free-kick, before he continued his hot streak with his second just after the hour – following some calamitous goalkeeping from Liam Castle.
Barwell huffed and puffed in the dying embers of the game, but were powerless to prevent the visitors from allowing their unbeaten run to soar to eight games on Bonfire Night.
Spartans welcomed Pattison, captain Robert Dale and Nathan Buddle back into the starting lineup following injury, while on-loan Newcastle United goalkeeper Paul Woolston made his debut between the sticks at Kirkby Road.
And the 18-year-old was called straight into action within the first two minutes, when Barwell captain Brady Hickey shot across the England youth keeper. Woolston got down well and was able to hold onto the ball, to snuff out the early danger.
A scrappy opening from both sides ensured, but Dale created Blyth’s first chance with a deep cross towards the back post on five minutes. The talismanic winger looked to pick out Daniel Maguire at the back post, but the ball flew just over the striker’s head.
The visitors had nearly converted from a right wing cross and Barwell went close themselves from a similar position a minute later. Owen Story found the head of Luke Barlone at the near post, but his header was collected comfortably by Woolston.
Barwell continued to apply the pressure and were only denied an opening goal on 16 minutes thanks to a quality save from the debutant Blyth stopper.
Montel Gibson had picked out Story with an inch-perfect through ball into the box, through a crowd of Spartans’ bodies. Story’s shot seemed destined to find the top corner, but a strong instinctive hand from Woolston palmed the ball behind for a corner.
If Barwell had been left frustrated by that wasted chance, then it was only compounded when Blyth took the lead – somewhat against the run of play – on 21 minutes, when Andrew Cartwright was fouled on the right corner of the Barwell box.
Pattison stepped up to take the set-piece and, just like he had against Halesowen Town earlier this season, the South African found the top corner with a fantastic curling free-kick – as Liam Castle was left stranded by the unstoppable rocket.
And Blyth could have been further ahead just after the half-hour mark, when Dale nodded the ball down into the path of Maguire. ‘Nipa’ took a touch to compose himself, but could only crash the ball off the inside of the post with Castle beaten once again.
With less than five minutes to go until half-time, Luke Armstrong nearly caught out Castle in no-man’s land – as the goalkeeper raced out to pick up Nigel Julien’s poor backpass. The young striker tried to nip in ahead of the keeper, but Castle showed good composure to keep possession and then clear his lines.
Blyth had struggled to get going in the first half, but they were straight out of the blocks after the break – as Maguire got down well and cut the ball back to an advancing Pattison just inside the box. However, the former Newcastle United and Norwich City midfielder couldn’t keep his first-time strike on target.
Gibson had been a nuisance for Barwell throughout the first 45 and looked to have finally been rewarded for his efforts, when he was picked out by Cleveland Taylor’s long cross from the right. The striker won a header at the back post, but the ball went just wide.
With just over an hour gone, Spartans finally doubled their lead – after some comedic keeping from Castle.
The Barwell number one tried to beat Maguire to a bobbling ball with his feet and got it all wrong – as the striker was able to nip in and play the ball back to Armstrong, who then beat Castle himself. Opting against shooting himself, the 20-year-old sent a low ball across the box and Pattison finished emphatically to score his ninth goal of the season.
Barwell continued to play despite that second setback and were desperately close to reducing the deficit when Gibson was played in down the left. The forward shot wide across Woolston, however, with Barlone unable to meet the trickling ball at the back post.
Less than two minutes later, Spartans thought they had their third. Maguire forced a fine low save from Castle and Armstrong looked destined to tap-in the rebound, but was adjudged to be offside from his strike-partner’s shot.
While Blyth had scored two hat-tricks during Tuesday’s 7-1 demolition of Goole AFC, the travelling Spartans support would be denied a third in four days – as Pattison made way for Richard Pell, with the visitors opting for a more defensive approach by switching to a flat-back three and having the full-backs move to wing-backs.
Despite an attempt from Alun Armstrong to strengthen his defence with that change, Barwell really should have scored with 15 minutes to go.
Hickey’s header hit the far post, but the ball sat up perfectly for Julien to nod in from two yards. With the goal at his mercy, the midfielder misjudged the flight of the ball and could only embarrassingly loop the ball up and over off the crossbar.
That was as good as it got for either side in the late stages of the game, despite Barwell spending long spells in the Spartans’ half – as Blyth claimed the three points they needed to remain a point behind Whitby Town at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier League standings.
Armstrong’s side now have a full week to prepare for their Buildbase FA Trophy tie against Halesowen Town at Croft Park next Saturday.
Barwell: Castle, Taylor, Balliger, Towers, Kay, Julien, Story (Martin 59), Stanley, Barlone, Hickey, Gibson (Nisevic 71).
Subs not used: Smith-Varnam, Rowe, Edgington.
Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Cartwright, Liddle, Mullen (Turnbull 85), Buddle, Hutchinson, Pattison (Pell 71), Wade, Maguire, Reid, Dale.
Subs not used: Rivers, Nicholson, Bell.
Referee: Edward Pidduck
Spartans Man of the Match: Matty Pattison
Armstrong: Newcastle United Stopper Woolston’s Superb Save Set Up Spartans’ Success At Barwell
Spartans boss Alun Armstrong believes Blyth had on-loan debutant stopper Paul Woolston to thank for their 2-0 win over Barwell – as the Newcastle United goalkeeper pulled off a crucial save just prior to Matty Pattison scoring the opening goal.
Woolston denied Owen Story with a fantastic reaction save when the Barwell midfielder was in one-on-one on 16 minutes, before Pattison left Liam Castle stranded with a superbly struck free-kick five minutes later.
The South African winger then went on to double up in the second half and secure Spartans’ fourth consecutive Evo-Stik Premier League win, but Armstrong was delighted that his latest signing was able to keep his side in the game after their sluggish start and provide a springboard for Pattison to break the deadlock moments later.
Armstrong said: “I’m chuffed to bits for Paul in goal. I thought he was outstanding.
“He came for things, his kicking was top notch and he just gave the lads a little bit more confidence.
When asked if Woolston’s save was the turning point of the game, Armstrong replied: “It probably was, because you always expect your goalkeeper to try and make the save. The lad probably shouldn’t have even got in there in the first place, but I thought Paul stood up really well and it was a great save to his left.
“We then went up and scored a fantastic free-kick soon after through Matty. We didn’t start at our best to be honest, but you look at the four-hour journey we did on the bus and it’s tough for the lads.
“Once we got the goal, we settled into it. We started to get a higher line instead of dropping off and the lads will take confidence from the game – as, after Paul’s save early on, I couldn’t really see them scoring.
“I was looking in the second half and thinking that it was quite comfortable. I didn’t see them scoring and I always thought we were going to nick another one, which we did.”
Despite Barwell enjoying much more possession than their visitors to Kirkby Road on Saturday, Spartans boss Armstrong not only saw his side nick a two-goal victory but they also kept their first clean sheet in five games in all competitions. However, the 41-year-old revealed that he had been briefed all about Barwell by Blyth captain Robert Dale.
Armstrong added: “I’m really happy with the result, obviously. We got the clean sheet that we deserved, but we have played a lot better than that without a shadow of a doubt.
“We knew it was going to be difficult and it’s great having Robbie on board – as he told me exactly what to expect at Barwell and it was nothing short of what he said. It was a battling game, where we had to win second balls more than just playing football.
“Both goals were against the run of play really. We never scored during our dominant spells in the game, but it’s great that we were able to rely on that little bit of quality to breakaway when they were on top.
“I think it showed another side to us though. We showed that battling quality and our determination not to concede.
“I changed it slightly at the end to make sure we saw the game out and that was my biggest point. Once we got to 2-0 up, I just thought that we have to see this game through now and prepare for the next one.”
After playing their third game within seven days in the 2-0 win over Barwell, Spartans now have a full week’s rest before they welcome fellow Evo-Stik Premier League side Halesowen Town to Croft Park for their Buildbase FA Trophy showdown. Even though Armstrong knows his side will be ready to go against their Midlands-based opponents, he is also dreading the selection headache he now faces for the contest.
Armstrong declared: “We’ll be more than ready for the Halesowen game on Saturday. The hardest part for me is picking the 11 and then picking the subs.
“I had to leave Michael Richardson out of the squad for Barwell and Gavin Caines as well. It’s hard to do, but that just shows how strong our squad is.
“Leaving players out like that is the hardest part of management, because I thought Michael did really well in the last game. He’s taken on board what we want from him and Gav has done ok when he’s come on as well, but I just thought Pelly [Richard Pell] gives us something different and that’s why I named him on the bench instead.
“I think I’ve said it before, but anyone that I put in there is capable of covering for everyone. Patta [Pattison] and Robbie came back in today and they took on board exactly what I said to them about being more disciplined.
“You look at the Trophy and that’s where I’ll be looking to bring that rotation into play. I know for a fact all of the lads will be desperate to play in it and we’re lucky that we can switch players round and we’ll not be any weaker.”
Cup games are starting to come thick and fast for Spartans, who travel to Shaw Lane AFC in the Integro Doodson Cup on Tuesday November 15 and then entertain Northern League side Bedlington Terriers in the Techflow Group Northumberland Senior Cup seven days later.
Despite that, Armstrong insists that the league remains as Blyth’s number one priority and he is focused solely on extending the club’s impressive unbeaten run for as long as possible.
Armstrong said: “We’ve got another cup game against Shaw Lane in the Integro Doodson Cup the Tuesday after Halesowen, so I’m looking at that one as well. However, the league still comes first and we need to ensure that we keep up this run that we’re on.
“We’re on a great run and I want it to continue. I want it to go on for as long as it can and I’m not going to shy away from the fact that we’re unbeaten in eight games at the moment – as once you get on these runs, you don’t want to come off them.”