By Craig Dobson
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Vanarama National League North
Tuesday, December 28th 2021
BLYTH SPARTANS 3-1 SPENNYMOOR TOWN
Blyth Spartans defeated Spennymoor Town in a frenetic fixture at Croft Park, with fine performances from Conor Thomson and Alex Mitchell inspiring the hosts to a crucial three points.
The hosts started brightly, with Dan Maguire seeing an early shot blocked before teeing up Thomson, whose effort was deflected over by a last-ditch intervention.
Blyth’s defence was called into similar action in the 11th minute, hurtling out to block a goalbound drive from Evan Mulhearn.
Terry Mitchell’s men looked dangerous in the opening exchanges, carving out plenty of crossing opportunities and bringing Maguire into the game frequently, and were duly rewarded for their attacking endeavour with the game’s opening goal in the 18th minute. Robbie Dale picked up possession twenty yards from goal, cut inside and curled a low shot towards goal. Dale Eve parried it away, but only as far as JJ O’Donnell, who tucked away the rebound.
Scott McLean fired wide from range as Spennymoor looked to respond, but the lively Maguire almost made it two before the half hour. Collecting a square ball from Thomson, the number nine moved into range before shooting agonisingly wide under pressure.
Moments later, the home side were let off the hook as a speculative driven ball from Luke Spokes picked out Glen Taylor. The former Spartans forward found himself completely unmarked and onside, but steered his reactive volley straight at ‘keeper Alex Mitchell.
Blyth almost took full advantage of that miss six minutes before the interval when Thomson found Maguire just outside of the area. The Spartans legend rolled his marker well, but pulled his shot agonisingly across the face of goal.
A penalty appeal from Mulhearn after an entanglement with Nathan Buddle and a skyward Thomson drive rounded out the half, with the hosts shading proceedings on the pitch and on the scoreboard.
The Moors, however, came roaring back from the whistle in what proved to be an action-packed second half. Mulhearn saw a low curler held by Mitchell, and the stopper showed great reflexes to push a rasping strike from Taylor over the crossbar.
Sandwiched between those chances, Thomson and Deverdics saw successive efforts blocked, but Spennymoor started the half in the ascendancy. When the visitors did beat Mitchell, the defence came to the rescue: Toby Lees sliding in to block away Jamie Chandler’s goalbound shot.
Lees’ intervention only delayed the inevitable, and just a minute later, Spennymoor were back on level terms. Wing-back John Lufudu won possession and fed Taylor, who made no mistake when through on goal in the 56th minute.
Taylor could have completed the turnaround with his second goal in as many minutes as the Blyth backline was sliced open once more, but could not beat Mitchell, who raced out to produce yet another fine stop.
Lufudo fired wide as the Moors ramped up the pressure, but momentum swung Blyth’s way once more just after the hour mark. Nicky Deverdics’ corner into a crowded six yard box was met by Lees, his perfectly timed header restoring the hosts’ advantage.
Tempers flared between the two sides as Karl Byrne went into the book for a strong challenge on Scott McLean. Fired up, Spennymoor rallied and almost levelled in the 70th minute. Lufudo, now deployed on the left, found himself with plenty of space in the box. His shot was pushed away well by Mitchell, who then reacted expertly to save – and, crucially, hold – Rob Ramshaw’s rebound.
Blyth Spartans had rediscovered their verve after retaking the lead, and continued to pose a threat themselves in the final fifteen minutes. Having worked the ball into the box, the typically impressive O’Donnell fed it out to Deverdics, whose effort was pushed behind for a corner.
With just seven minutes left on the clock, Blyth made the game safe with a superb run and finish from Thomson. The winger had caused problems with his direct, surging runs all afternoon, and the Spennymoor defence had no answer to his marauding charge inside from the left flank; nor could the ‘keeper do anything about the clinical low finish.
It was a well-deserved goal to cap a man-of-the-match performance, and sparked wild celebrations from most of the 916 in attendance.
Spennymoor tried to exert scoreboard pressure in the closing moments, Chandler drilling wide through a crowd of bodies and Taylor flicking a header past the post, but Blyth could have scored another themselves. A quick break from the back saw Thomson and McNall link up well, before Deverdics curled an effort off target.
The final whistle sealed a first victory under Terry Mitchell and a crucial three points to boot. A fourth win of the league campaign takes Spartans level on points with Gloucester City and Bradford (Park Avenue), and four clear of Telford in the relegation zone.
Blyth Spartans | Mitchell, Byrne (Watson 72′), Liddle, Buddle, Lees, Hickey, Deverdics, Dale (Reid 64′), O’Donnell, Thomson, Maguire (McNall 79′).
Spennymoor Town | Eve, Lufudo (Thomson 82′), McLean, Tait, Curtis, Richardson, Chandler, Ramshaw, McLean (Hall 68′), Mulhearn (Moke 68′), Taylor.
Referee | Dale Baines
Attendance | 916