BY Jordan Cronin
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
National League North
Saturday, December 28, 2019
BLYTH SPARTANS 0-2 DARLINGTON
Blyth Spartans ended 2019 with a 2-0 home defeat to Alun Armstrong’s Darlington, despite a spirited second-half display at Croft Park.
A clinical Quakers took a two-goal advantage into the break after former Spartan Sean Reid got himself on the scoresheet before Justin Donawa netted on the brink of half-time.
And while Lee Clark’s side had enough chances to take something from the game, the return of Armstrong and a host of ex-Spartans left Northumberland with all three points.
Callum Roberts and Rhys Evans were forced to watch from the sidelines with a dead leg and flu, respectively, as Lee Clark made three changes to the side that won at Gateshead on Boxing Day.
Darlington named a starting 11 including three former Blyth Spartans players in Michael Liddle, Louis Laing and Sean Reid. Jordan Watson and Jarrett Rivers were among the substitutes.
Blyth carved out the first opening of the game after six minutes as slick vision from Damen Mullen sent Robbie Dale away on the right wing before he cut inside and saw his effort saved by the legs of Chris Elliott.
However, it was a familiar face that put his mark on the game – Reid heading home the opener in the 13th-minute after pulling away at the back post to convert Adam Campbell’s cross.
While the Quakers looked a constant threat in possession, Spartans arguably created the far greater chances as Jack Sanders almost forced a quick equaliser with his header creeping just wide from Olly Scott’s corner.
And in the 35th minute, Elliott was on top form to deny both Scott and Jack Hunter with two low saves just seconds apart.
But the visitors were in a clinical mood and added a second three minutes before half-time. William Hatfield powered his way down the left and picked out Donawa, who made no mistake with the finish.
A few minutes after half-time, Reid thought he bagged his second and Darlington’s third, however was denied by the offside flag after sliding home Joe Wheatley’s cross-come-shot.
Blyth kept on battling with set pieces providing Clark’s side with their more inviting opportunities.
Mullen delivered into Michael Sweet who headed straight at Elliott before Sanders hit the crossbar from four yards out after the Quakers keeper fumbled Dale’s corner.
Then, a short free-kick involving Mullen and Dale saw the latter deliver low into Hunter, only for Alex Storey to prevent a certain goal with a sublime block.
As Spartans pushed, substitute Omar Holness and Reid both tried their luck. Hemming was well-positioned to hold Holness’ header while Reid’s shot from distance drifted over the crossbar.
The late introduction of Levi Amantchi sparked some joy. Shortly after Sweet was again thwarted by Elliott with a header, the on-loan Chesterfield striker should have shot first time but the delay allowed the Quakers to clear.
The final whistle was blown and Spartans found themselves five points from National League North safety after results from elsewhere went against them for the second Saturday in a row.
Blyth Spartans: Hemming, Ritson (Amantchi, 77), Hutchinson (Wrightson, 26), Devitt, Sanders, Thackray, Scott, Hunter, Sweet, Mullen (Hawkins, 57), Dale. Subs not used: Amantchi, McKeown, Evans.
Darlington: Elliott, Hedley, Liddle, Wheatley (Holness, 61), Laing, Storey, Donawa, Hatfield, Campbell (Rivers, 68), Reid, Lambert (Thompson, 77). Subs not used: Watson, Bascome.
Goals: Reid (13), Donawa (42)
Referee: Edward Duckworth