By Stephen Burton
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Vanarama National League North
Saturday, April 30th 2022
BRACKLEY TOWN 0-1 BLYTH SPARTANS
JJ O’Donnell’s moment of magic secured safety for Spartans as they beat promotion chasers Brackley at St James Park.
O’Donnell hit a stunning overhead kick on the hour before a heroic defensive display secured a massive
Spartans boss Terry Mitchell named two changes from the side that drew with Kidderminster Harriers last weekend, with Josh Robson coming in for his Blyth debut in place of Nathan Buddle, and Sado Djalo replacing the injured Dan Maguire.
Both players combined in the opening second before Djalo curled an effort wide of the target as Blyth made a promising start.
Brackley began to take control and a lengthy spell of possession led to a strike from Fabio Lopes from the edge of the area that was easily saved by Alex Mitchell.
Despite their possession the hosts struggled to find a breakthrough with Blyth happy to try and hit them on the break.
Spartans went close as birthday boy Djalo received a gift from the opposition keeper as his scuffed clearance made it’s way to the feet of the striker, but defender Wes York did well to cover.
Five minutes later Brackley had a great chance to go ahead from a corner with Louis Lomas and Connor Franklin having efforts blocked before a goalmouth scramble saw JJ O’Donnell somehow block on the line.
Chances were few and far between, but the deadlock was almost broken in spectacular fashion on 35 minutes as Matt Lowe picked the ball up on the right wing and powered past two defenders and cut inside but his effort was too close to Mitchell.
On the stroke of half-time Spartans had a great chance to take the lead as Djalo’s low cross was met by Corey McKeown but his shot was charged down by the Brackley defender.
Knowing a win anything but a win would cost them dear in their race for automatic promotion, Brackley started the second-half brightly.
Toby Lees had to be alert as Lee Ndlovu broke down the right and played the ball across goal, taking out Mitchell, but the Spartans defender did well to get to it first.
Moments later Jimmy Armason and Shep Murombedzi fired snap shots wide from outside the box as they kept Blyth in their own half.
On the hour-mark a rare foray forward Spartans earned a corner which was drilled low towards O’Donnell whose shot was straight at Danny Lewis and hacked clear.
But seconds later, the ball was fired back into the Brackley box and half cleared towards the Spartans number 10, who, with this back to goal, fired a spectacular overheard kick into the top corner to silence St James Park and edge Blyth towards safety.
Spartans had a spring in their step and could’ve had a second as Angelo Cappello raced down the left wing but his cross was just too high for Connor Thomson at the back post.
It was Brackley who bossed possession as the half went on, but the Spartans defence, led by Lees held firm, and in fact it was the visitors who looked more likely to score, as Thomson played in O’Donnell but his shot was well blocked on the line by Gareth Dean.
The hosts continued to push forward in the final 10 minutes with Lowe stinging the hands of Mitchell with a sweetly struck half-volley.
The winger again went close a few minutes later as Spartans failed to deal with a bouncing ball in the box, but he pulled his effort horribly wide of the target.
Brackley through everything at Blyth in the final moments, with one deep free-kick causing havoc in the area as green and white shirts threw themselves in front of everything.
As the clock ticked into injury time Jaanai Gordon saw a free-kick well parried over by Mitchell, then from the ensuing corner there was another scramble with Lees once more producing a heroic block to keep the ball out.
The hosts continued to press but Spartans held firm for a huge win to secure their National League North status for another season.
Brackley Town | Lewis, York, Franklin (Walker 58’), Murombedzi, Lomas, Dean ©, Lowe, Armson, Ndlovu, Lopes (Gordon 56’), Richards Subs not used | Myles, Prosser, Mitford
Blyth Spartans | Mitchell, Liddle, O’Donnell, McKeown (Thomson 69’), Deverdics, Lees, Barlow, Djalo (McNall 90’), Almond, Robson, Cappello (Dale 80’) Subs not used | Evans, Reid
Goals | O’Donnell 60’
Referee | Matt Scholes
Attendance | 895