Saturday 8th February
Blue Square North
Tony McMillan, Chris Lever, Rob Marsh-Evans, Adam Flynn (Captain), Earl Davis, Ashley Winn, Robbie Booth (Paul Barrett), Michael Powell, Chris Simm, Ciaran Kilhenney (Steve Daly), Matty McGinn
Subs not used – Shaun Gray, Sean Lake and Bradley Barnes
Blyth Spartans –
Mark Bell, Stephen Harrison, Mark Doninger, Michael Tait, Gareth Williams (Captain), Richard Pell, Chris McCabe, Stephen Turnbull, Paul Brayson, Ian Graham, Robert Dale (Guy Bates)
Subs not used – Simon Todd, Jack Norton, Josh Gillies and John Alexander
Following their first midweek away win in almost two years Blyth travelled to title-chasing Southport in high spirits, but were dealt a blow minutes before kick off as full back Darren Craddock suffered a late re-occurrence of the heel injury that he picked up in the win over Stalybridge Celtic. Mark Doninger was drafted in from the substitutes bench to play in midfield and this saw midfielder Stephen Turnbull fill in at left back.
The Spartans took the lead on 16 minutes, a punched clearance from Mark Bell fell to Ian Graham 30 yards from the Blyth goal, he drove towards the half way line before playing a fine cross field pass to Paul Brayson, who returned a fine pass back to Graham, who had continued his run and he finished well across McMillan to give Blyth the lead.
Southport fought their way back into the game on 31 minutes, a dangerous right wing cross was met by the imposing Earl Davis and the centre back’s header sneaked in at the back post despite the best efforts of Stephen Turnbull to clear the ball. Southport took the lead on 37 minutes. A fine passing move saw a slide rule pass find Chris Simm and his clever finish gave Mark Bell no chance.
Half Time 2-1
Blyth started the second half on the attack. A typically committed spell of play by tenacious midfielder Michael Tait win the ball on the edge of the box and feed striking sensation Paul Brayson (pictured left), who had the presence of mind to cut inside his marker before sliding the ball past McMillan into the far corner, to score his twentieth goal in a Spartans shirt and his eighth in the last six games.
A slack pass from the Spartans midfield saw a through ball played to Chris Simm and found the striker in acres of space on the edge of the penalty area, he took his time and placed his shot only to see a stunning one-handed save from Mark Bell, as he pushed the ball past the post for a Southport corner.
The resultant corner was met at the back post by Earl Davis, but this time Stephen Turnbull managed to claw the ball away from the goal and it was cleared to Ian Graham on the half way line. The diminutive striker controlled the ball instantly and flicked the ball past Adam Flynn, but as the Southport captain was going to ground he stuck a hand out to divert the ball away to safety and prevent the Blyth forward from running directly towards goal. After a lengthy discussion with both assistants, referee Peter Davies deemed the incident too far from the goal to send off the defender and showed him a yellow card, much to the annoyance of the Blyth players and management.
With Blyth looking dangerous on the break and the game coming to a conclusion, there was late heartbreak as a Blyth clearance was deflected into the path of the unmarked Chris Simm of the right edge of the box, who slotted the ball past Bell, despite protests from the Blyth defence that the scorer was in an offside position.
Blyth continued to press and nearly got a late equaliser when Mark Doninger beat Tony McMillan to a header, but Earl Davis had read the situation and was able to head the ball from the line and away to safety to secure al three points for the Sandgrounders.
It was a credible performance with a makeshift back-line and it is hoped that the unavailable John Brackstone and the injured Darren Craddock return for the two home games this week (Tuesday night to Harrogate Town and Saturday afternoon to Stafford Rangers).