Blyth Spartans went in to Saturday’s game at home to Vauxhall Motors on the back of a decent run which has seen them claw their way up to fifth off bottom in the League and nearer to certain safety from the threat of relegation.
But a hesitant performance which lacked any real cutting edge resulted in a 1-0 nil defeat and saw them drop back to fourth off bottom – only one place off a relegation spot.
A goal after only thirty seconds meant that Blyth were chasing the game from the off.
“We had a terrible start,” said Spartans manager Harry Dunn.
“Lee Furlong took his chance well but we shouldn’t have lost possession from a throw-in in the first place. After that we actually played quite well for a while and created some reasonably good chances. We hit the bar and Coates in their goal pulled off a couple of good stops from Anthony Shandran and Simon Todd.”
It might have been expected that Blyth would step up a gear against the Motormen in the second half based on a fighting first 45 minutes following the dreadful start but in fact they stuttered and failed to find the flow and creativity which they had previously shown.
Mark Bell in the Blyth goal kept his side in the game as the visitors threatened to score again in the first minute of the half. The home side did have some opportunities to salvage something from the game with Banks firing wide and stand in Captain, centre back Richard Pell, hitting the bar.
Dunn revealed he replaced striker Shandran, who was playing in his second game for Blyth after signing form Bedlington Terriers, with Shaun Reay to offer his side a change of pace and attacking options.
However despite changes to his side their showing wasn’t enough to satisfy a disgruntled Dunn.
“Yes we deteriorated after the break” he commented. “We still had most of the possession but really we just huffed and puffed while Vauxhall seemed happy just to kill the game and waste time. We needed to be sharper but in fact we became lethargic and ran out of ideas.
“The conditions were difficult with a strong wind and a bumpy pitch but it has to be said that it was a poor game from our point of view and that we didn’t deserve to get anything from it.”
It was significant that Blyth were missing four key players in Captain Gareth Williams, defender Andrew Leeson and midfielders Chris McCabe and Adrian Webster. It was the wealth of experience from players who have played over 700 games for the Spartans between them that hampered the side at the weekend in Williams’ opinion.
“Obviously those lads were a miss and we had some players who haven’t been at the Club long still settling in but I thought we still should have got something from the game but we need to get better at taking our chances” he suggested.
Blyth have now entered a critical and hectic part of the season which sees them play five games in ten days. They travel to fellow relegation haunted Hyde on Monday, entertain Droylsden this Thursday night, head west to take on Workington on Saturday before entertaining Farsley Celtic on Easter Monday.
Harry Dunn says his priority is not to lose any games but thinks that the fixture congestion is ridiculous.
“If this sort of thing happened in the Premier League could you imaging Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson not going absolutely crazy? OK our FA Cup run, ironically, hasn’t helped the situation but we need a longer season at our level to help avoid this sort of thing happening!
Dunn and his squad are facing a severe test of resolve and character over the next few weeks until the end of the season and it is the next ten days which are likely to indicate whether the calibre is there to sustain them.