BY Jordan Cronin
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
National League North
Wednesday, January 1
BLYTH SPARTANS 3-3 GATESHEAD
A 93rd-minute equaliser from Levi Amantchi earned Blyth Spartans a late point against Gateshead in a game that saw four penalties awarded – including one saved by Zach Hemming.
Heed left-back Scott Barrow opened the scoring with a dubious penalty decision before seeing one brilliantly saved by Middlesbrough loanee Hemming with the scores tied at 2-2.
Jordan Preston had doubled the visitors’ advantage before the hour-mark but two spot-kicks from Callum Roberts in two minutes in the final 15 minutes got Lee Clark’s men back on level terms.
But the drama wasn’t finished there. Greg Olley thought he had won it on 90 minutes only for substitute Levi Amantchi to dramatically level again deep into injury time.
Clark welcomed back Roberts into the starting 11 after a dead leg ruled him out of the defeat to Darlington in what was three changes to the Blyth team.
And the former Newcastle United winger could have opened the scoring after 14 minutes when he dispossessed Nicky Deverdics just inside the box.
However, he was hesitant in his attempt with many anticipating a free-kick to Gateshead and struck well wide of the mark.
But while that was up for debate, the penalty decision by referee John Matthews was not as he left Croft Park stunned – even the away fans – as he pointed to spot following a tangle between Olly Scott and Dom Tear.
It appeared Tear was fouling Scott but Barrow stepped up to dispatch the penalty, despite Spartans goalkeeper Hemming guessing the right way.
That didn’t seem to affect the Blyth players as they went on to squander two glorious opportunities with Jack Hunter and Michael Sweet the recipients.
Roberts twisted and turned the Heed defence on the right before picking out Hunter at the byline, however the midfielder lifted his shot over the crossbar.
Four minutes later in a blink of an eye, Sweet was sent in on goal by Lewis Hawkins but could only aim into the side netting after Brad James was quick off his line.
Gateshead, though, also had their chances but not as clear cut as Blyth’s as Tear got the better of Scott on the left wing to find Preston infield, who brought a strong save from Hemming.
And Preston forced another fine save from Hemming on the brink of half-time with the Middlesbrough loanee showing his reflexes to tip the shot over the crossbar.
Soon after the interval, Spartans missed another big opportunity – the unmarked Scott picking up the loose ball from Roberts’ cross before hitting off target.
Gateshead threatened a second when Jack Sanders cleared Barrow’s effort off the line, however, that only delayed the inevitable as Preston looped the ball over Hemming after seeing his initial effort saved for 2-0.
It looked to be another one of those afternoons for Clark’s men – Hawkins shooting and creating one.
The first saw his initial effort blocked before James got down low to save the follow-up. He then whipped a ball into the head of Amantchi, on as a 63rd-minute substitute, who headed over from six yards.
However, the game all changed on an undescribable last quarter of an hour as it provided the most end-to-end action you will see at Croft Park this season.
Spartans were handed a lifeline when substitute Liam Agnew hacked down Roberts in the penalty area before the attacker stepped up to bury the ball into the left side of the net.
And just minutes later, the referee was left no choice to award another Blyth Spartans spot-kick as Olley fouled Robbie Dale. This time, Roberts beat James at the other side of the goal.
But it wasn’t finished there. A fourth penalty was signalled when Josh Kayode went down under the challenge of Sanders and Ryan Hutchinson.
Hemming was booked after attempting to put off Barrow – and it worked as the Boro loanee beat the Heed defender’s penalty away.
Barrow and Gateshead’s blushes looked to be saved by Olley when he scuffed home a scooped Mike Williamson cross into the bottom corner for 3-2.
Indeed, the headlines were stolen by Amantchi when he powered through the visiting defence and produced a calm finish into the bottom – sending Blyth fans into raptures.
Blyth Spartans: Hemming, Evans, Scott (Hutchinson 72), Mullen (Amantchi 63), Sanders, Thackray, Hunter, Hawkins, Sweet (Wrightson 72), Roberts, Dale. Subs not used: Devitt, Wrightson, Amantchi.
Goals: Roberts (76, 78), Amantchi (90+3rd)
Gateshead: James, Nicholson, Forbes, Deverdics, Cooper, Williamson, Tear, Olley, Kayode, Preston, Barrow. Subs not used: Cranston, Guthrie, Oliver, Agnew, Nelson.
Goals: Barrow (19 pen), Preston (58), Olley (90)
Referee: John Matthews