REPORT: Final day disappointment for Spartans as Mariners seal safety

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ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant

cima-mip-logo-2.jpgBlyth Spartans 1-2 Marine
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Croft Park
Saturday 25th April 2015
Attendance: 831

Blyth Spartans play-off hopes were dashed by a brave performance by Marine at Croft Park. The Mariners sealed their Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division status for another year with a win inspired by a brace from winger Lloyd Ellams and although a Stephen Turnbull penalty got Spartans back into it the Merseyside outfit held on, despite being place under serious pressure from an increasingly desperate home side.

The full time whistle was met by contrasting emotions, the sheer unashamed delight of Marine was a contrast to the disappointment on the faces of the Spartans players. In a nutshell, in a single moment, in one image the emotional rollercoaster of football was beautifully encapsulated. But how it could have been all so very different.

After a slow start to the game ensued but it was the visitors who struck the first blow in the tenth minute as they took the lead with a goal from Lloyd Elams. A long throw from the left hand side by James Short caused problems in the Spartans back four and the ball fell to Ellams, allowing the winger to turn and fire into the far corner of Nick Thomson’s net and although the Spartans keeper got a touch he couldn’t prevent the ball nestling in the back of the net.

That lead was doubled in the twenty second minute as Ellams grabbed his second of the game and doubled his side’s lead. Again it came down the left as Karl Clair broke in the area and took advantage of a slip by Alex Nicholson. He then rolled back to Ellams and the winger struck the ball into the roof of the net from around the same distance as his first strike.

In front of an increasingly frustrated Croft Park crowd Spartans finally created a chance five minutes before the break as Matthew Wade broke forward from midfield. As he found a yard of space just outside the Marine area the midfielder flicked a lovely ball in behind the visitors back four to find Dan Maguire but the in-form striker dragged a left foot effort well wide of the far post.

Nick Thomson was further tested as the visitors looked to increase their advantage. The Spartans keeper produced comfortable saves to deny Andy Owens and Lloyd Ellam with shots from around twenty yards out that were awkward, rather than difficult tests for the Thomson.

That Maguire chance was the sum total of Spartans attempts to come back from deficit gained by their visitors overwhelming desperation to stay in the divison, rather than Spartans taking the upper hand with their attempts to get into the play-offs.

Spartans could and should have made the perfect start to the second half as within three minutes of the restart Michael Richardson missed a golden opportunity to put his side back in the game. Dan Hawkins was the man who set up the former Newcastle United midfielder with an intricate through ball and with a clear side of goal Richardson dragged a shot wide of the far post.

The introduction of Jarrett Rivers seemed to give Spartans a bit of fresh impetus and it was the little winger who carved open the Marine back four as he played Maguire in on goal. The ball was between the Spartans striker and Marine keeper Matthew Cooper and as the pair challenged for the ball it looped over them and agonisingly over the bar with Croft Park holding its collective breath in anticipation, only to be left disappointed.

With ten minutes left Spartans were handed a lifeline as they were awarded a penalty. A long ball into the area eventually landed at the feet of Robbie Dale and he casually flicked it into Maguire who was set to prod home from close range but was illegally haulde to the ground by Mariners captain Andy Nicholas. A spot kick was awarded and Stephen Turnbull lashed it into the top right hand corner to get his side back in the game.

Spartans were applying serious pressure to the Marine goal and came within an inch of an equaliser with two minutes left on the clock. A long ball into the Marine area eventually found its way to Rivers and the winger struck a low effort from ten yards that was cleared off the line by Willis.

That was quickly followed by another chance, although this one would have easily been classed as a goal of the season contender. A headed clearance by Liam Willis was met by a vicious volley by Spartans full back Alex Nicholson from all of thirty yards but Marine keeper Cooper made an outstanding stop as he dived full length to his left to parry the ball away.

With that chance went Spartans play-off hopes and as their visitors reflected on their survival Spartans were left to ponder what might have been. In reality on the day they gave all they could, aching legs were drained to their very last, as they have been on many times this season.

Whatever the whys and what could have beens of the season nobody connected with Blyth Spartans can deny that this campaign has thrown up many memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it’s the many moments that the FA Cup created, or the outstandingly brave run that took Spartans play off chase into the final game of the season, progress has been made and this young squad is growing in terms of ability, togetherness and experience.

Now a big summer lies ahead, once the Northumberland Senior Cup Final is dealt with on Monday evening, there is work to be done. Tom Wade has overseen the introduction and development of a supremely talented squad and now there is a need for him to be allowed to develop that further. The Spartans boss has overseen a complete turnaround in fortunes since his appointment just over two years ago and even he would admit the job is half done.

Play-off disappointment should not be the beginning of the end, it should be the end of the beginning.

Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Mullen, Parker, Turnbull, Hooks, Richardson, Dale, Maguire, Wade (Davis 67), Hawkins (Rivers 60) Subs not used: Lynch, Wearmouth, Jeffries Goals: Turnbull 80 pen

Marine: Cooper, Wainwright, Short, Willis, Foley (Peers 77), Nicholas, Ellams, Clair, Owens (Whyte 86), Menagh, Codling Subs not used: Bembo-Leta, Owens, Whyte, Mitchison Goals: Ellams 10 and 22

Referee: Danny Markham

Posted by BSAFC Admin