By Stephen Burton
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Vanarama National League North
Saturday, March 22nd 2022
BLYTH SPARTANS 1-3 BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE)
Blyth suffered their fifth home league defeat in a row as three first-half goals cost Spartans dear in a disappointing night at Croft Park.
Bradford went ahead on 14 minutes as Harrison Hopper fired home from close-range before Simon Richman doubled their lead 15 minutes later. Lewis Knight then struck a stunning third for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
Lewis McNall struck a consolation goal for Spartans a minute before the end.
Terry Mitchell, absent from the touchline due to testing positive for Covid, named an unchanged side from the one that won away to Chorley at the weekend, with assistant boss Graeme Coulson taking charge in the dugout.
Blyth started well as they enjoyed plenty of the ball early with Angelo Cappello and Corey McKeown continuing where they left off on Saturday, causing the visitors plenty of problems on the flanks.
However, despite a number of cross and the hosts couldn’t quite find the killer touch thanks to some excellent last-ditch defending from Bradford.
As it looked like Blyth were the most likely to take the lead, they fell behind, as Brad Docherty fired in a low cross that found Sam Fielding at the back post. He was denied by a stunning stop from Alex Mitchell, but Hopper made no mistake as he lashed home the rebound.
Docherty against caused Spartans problems a few moments later as he again found space on the right and cut the ball back to Fielding, but Blyth were let off the hook as the midfielder smashed the ball over.
Blyth continued to dominate possession but struggled to find a way through a Bradford defence that now had something to cling on to.
Spartans were then dealt a hammer blow as the visitors got their second just before the half-hour mark, as Hopper turned provider as he found space wide in the box and fired across the face of goal for Richman to convert.
The hosts pushed forward as the half drew to a close, but struggled to register a shot, and then, out of nothing, they were three down.
Knight raced onto a long ball that looked to be little threat, but as the Spartans defence struggled to deal with the bouncing ball, the Bradford forward struck a sweet half-volley into the top corner.
Docherty tried something similarly spectacular for Bradford a couple of minutes into the second-half but his long-range effort flew narrowly over.
Just as in the first-half, Blyth enjoyed plenty of possession, but the best effort they could muster in the early stages was a wild effort from JJ O’Donnell from just outside the box.
It was a very much attack versus defence, but Blyth registered their first shot on target as the game approached the hour-mark, when Jordan Hickey fired a well-struck half-volley into the arms of George Sykes-Kenworthy.
Bradford should have got a third moments later as they hit Blyth on the break, but Hopper somehow skewed his shot wide when he had an open goal to aim at.
The game turned scrappy with the visitors understandably happy to sit on what they had, one bit of quality did shine through as Rhys Evans beat his man on the right wing before picking out Cappello but he couldn’t direct his header goalwards.
Spartans continued to push in the last 10 minutes, with substitute Danny Barlow inches away from connecting to a long ball from Nathan Buddle, only to be beaten to the ball by the Bradford keeper.
With just a couple of minutes remaining, Blyth finally found a way through, as McKeown brilliantly weaved his way past a couple of defenders before laying off to McNall to fire home.
Robbie Dale fizzed a long range effort narrowly wide shortly after as Spartans pushed for an improbable comeback in the dying moments, but it proved too little too late.
Blyth Spartans | Mitchell, Evans, Buddle ©, Maguire (Hickey 45’), O’Donnell (McNall 62’), Dale, McKeown, Deverdics, Lees, Almond, Cappello (Barlow 78’) Subs not used | Watson, Byrne
Goals | McNall 89’
Bradford (Park Avenue) | Sykes-Kenworthy, Ross, Odunston, Hopper, Havern, Fielding, Knight, Richman (Toulson 83’), Docherty, Johnson (Hinds 75’), Clee (Nowakowski 78’) Subs not used | Windass, Guilfoyle
Goals | Hopper 14’, Richman 29’, Knight 43’
Referee | Aaron Bannister
Attendance | 617