Time was ticking away quickly as Blyth Spartans went into Saturday’s game with Gainsborough Trinity. Relegation from the Blue Square North was still a possibility with only three games remaining.
The Club has never been relegated in its entire history and the prospect of such an occurrence after this season’s hugely successful FA Cup run would make for cruel irony.
With Blyth holding on to a precious point at the end of the 90 minutes, and news of other results probably going the Spartans’ way, the referee indicated that there would be an agonising eight added minutes. Now time was ticking away slowly. Could Blyth hold on and secure their future or would it go down to the last two games which they would have to play with a squad seriously depleted by injury and suspension?
The eight minutes passed, a draw was the result and Blue Square status maintained.
A collective sigh of relief seemed to wash over Croft Park.
“Yes, it was a nervy affair as the game went on,” commented Blyth manager Harry Dunn. “We did well in the first half but the nerves got to us, and the crowd, as time went by. It’s just such a relief to be safe and to have the pressure off.”
“We started well enough and could have been two or three up early on but Gainsborough are a good side and they made us struggle a bit towards the end when we looked very ordinary” he added.
Indeed ex Gainsborough centre back Richard Pell almost scored against his former club minutes after Shaun Reay had put Blyth ahead when his header was palmed off the line by visiting goalkeeper Adam Sollitt.
Anthony Shandran also nearly put Blyth two up following a jinking run and shot which Sollitt again thwarted.
Dunn was annoyed that his side let the visitors back into the game within minutes of the restart. A mix up in his defence allowed Luke Beckett time and space to easily beat Bell in the Blyth goal.
“In the end we got what we needed to survive,” said Dunn. “It’s been a long hard season but we now need to start planning for next year. I’ll be on the phone this week talking to people and making plans.” Meanwhile Dunn has to somehow get teams sorted to play at home to Southport on Tuesday night and then for the concluding game of the season at relegated Burscough next weekend.
“It’s a good job we are now safe as we would have had real problems putting teams out for the two games left” he suggested. “Shandran and Gary Brown are suspended while Alex Gildea injured his groin on Saturday and won’t play again this season as won’t Stuart Banks while Pell and left back John Brackstone are both struggling.”
Burscough are joined by Hucknall and Hyde United in being relegated to the Unibond League but for Dunn it’s a case of time passes and there are new paths to trawl.