BY Liam O’Brien
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
The Buildbase FA Trophy First Round
Saturday, December 14, 2019
Stockport County 4-2 Blyth Spartans
Blyth Spartans suffered an FA Trophy First Round defeat to National League outfit Stockport County, despite a valiant display from Lee Clark’s men.
The hosts got their noses in front on the hour-mark when Tom Walker’s free-kick was headed home by Ash Palmer, who might have been in an offside position.
Spartans equalised before half-time when Rhys Evans sent a ball across the face of goal that was tapped home by Lewis Hawkins.
The Hatters regained the advantage in the 66th minute – substitute Adam Thomas heading home before Tom Walker added a third, nine minutes later.
But Spartans refused to go down without a fight. Jack Hunter’s swiftly halved the deficit and Blyth threatened a leveller until Sam Minihan, another substitute, secured the win in the fourth minute of injury time.
Clark was without five first-team players for the trip to Edgeley Park. Scott Fenwick, Robbie Dale, Anthony Callaghan, Adam Wrightson and Levi Amantchi.
Kris Thackray, signed on loan from Morpeth Town on Friday, went straight into the starting 11 in place of Tom Devitt.
Jim Gannon’s Stockport started the game brightly and almost took the lead through Frank Mulhern. He raced through on goal only to be denied superbly by Zach Hemming.
Hemming was in top form and prevented the hosts from taking the lead again. Walker got in between Evans and Thackray but the Middlesbrough loanee was equal to the attempt.
Spartans greatest attempt on goal followed in the 23rd-minute. A pullback to Dylan McGlade was blocked by Palmer before Olly Scott saw his near post shot saved by Ben Hinchliffe.
Scott was soon called into action at his own end, clearing a shot off the line from a Stockport corner. Then, Rodney’s shot was denied again by Hemming.
But as soon as the half-hour mark hit, Stockport were in front when Palmer headed home, a goal that had questions of an offside.
Despite trailing, Clark’s side finished the half on top and found an equaliser through a brilliant team goal – finished off by Hawkins.
Spartans could have been 2-1 up going in half-time when McGlade’s cross was almost brought an own goal from Festus Arthur.
In the first minute of the second half, Hemming held the ball when Elliot Osborne had a strike at goal that was deflected into the hands of the goalkeeper.
Michael Sweet was presented with a superb opportunity to test Hinchliffe. McGlade set the Blyth striker away on the edge of the box but he disappointedly hit way off target.
Then, three minutes after Jordan Keane was thwarted by Hemming, Hawkins took a strike from outside the box that crept wide of the far post.
And a minute later, Stockport went 2-1 up lead through Thomas, who got his head on the end of a cross from Cowan.
In the 72nd minute, Osborne went for an audacious strike from outside the box that was saved by a brilliant diving save by Hemming.
Unfortunately, Stockport doubled their lead in the 76th minute when Osborne’s cross missed several players but found its way to Walker, who smashed it in from close range.
Indeed, Blyth created a tense finish courtesy of a terrific strike from Hunter – his first goal in green and white colours.
But, in injury time, substitute Minihan slotted the ball into the far corner from close range to inflict a harsh scoreline on Spartans.
Spartans put in a brave performance against a high-flying Stockport and will be hoping to continue that energy into the next game at home to Southport.
Stockport: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Turnbull (c), Palmer, Keane, Mulhern (Hopkins, 89), Osborne (Minihan, 81), Arthur, Garant, Walker, Rodney (Thomas, 45). Subs Not Used: Ormson, Cooper, Rattle, Stanye
Goals: Palmer (29) Thomas (66) Walker (76) Minihan (90)
Spartans: Hemming, Evans, Scott, Mullen (c), Ritson (Devitt, 78), Thackray, McGlade (Hutchinson, 71), Hunter, Sweet, Roberts, Hawkins. Subs not used: McKeown
Goals: Hawkins (40) Hunter (78)