Spartans Season Review: August

During the close season we will be putting together a month by month look at Spartans 2013/14 season. With quotes from management and players, stats and notable achievements the Green Army can relive the many memorable moments from a campaign of progression at Croft Park

It was a summer of change at the club with new coaching staff and a whole raft of new players brought in by the now permanent manager Tom Wade. With a new assistant manager in Colin Myers at his side the duo brought in a group of younger players who were well known to both. The likes of Nathan Buddle, Danny Parker, Arran Wearmouth and Matthew Wade joined ahead of the new campaign.

After a mixed bag of a pre-season the first competitive fixture of the season saw Spartans travel to Lancashire to the Arriva Stadium, home of Marine and a venue where they were hammered 5-1 last season. Many expected a similar scoreline but Spartans started brightly and took the lead in the twenty fifth minute through a Joe Kendrick penalty. That was given after debutant Dean Holmes was brought down by Marine keeper McMahon and Kendrick made no mistake from the spot.

Spartans almost doubled their lead just before half time but Dan Maguire’s header crashed off the crossbar and his side went into the break just a goal to the good. The home side came out in the second half with a point to prove and only some inspired goalkeeping from the impressive Conor Grant repelled the hosts. However the pressure paid off in the cruellest of circumstances for Wade’s young side as Danny Parker conceded a last minute penalty after a foul on Marine striker Monaghan. Andy Fowler stepped up to give his side a deserved point.

After the game Parker reflected on his debut saying “I’m absolutely wounded and personally it’s a loss to me, I’m devastated but proud of the lads”. His manager had nothing but praise for his young side with Wade saying “The game gave them the shock of their lives-playing against quality opposition but I’m over the moon by the way they battled through”

Newly promoted Trafford were the first visitors to Croft Park for a Tuesday night fixture. After missing the game at Marine defender Nathan Buddle made his debut and Arran Wearmouth made a first appearance on the bench after finally concluding a transfer from Bishop Auckland. The night would be remembered for a first goal of what was to be a glorious season for one Spartans player in particular.

However Wade’s men had to come back from a goal down after North striker Shelton Payne had netted from the penalty spot, the spot kick awarded after Payne had been brought down by Conor Grant in the area. However Spartans hit back with a penalty of their own just two minutes later meaning that remarkably the first four goals in Spartans games this season all came from the spot. Dan Maguire was the man who won the penalty and Kendrick – just as he had done at Marine – made no mistake.

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Just before the break Spartans were in front thanks to a first goal of the season for Dan Maguire(pictured above). The striker linked up in devastating fashion with Robbie Dale as a one-two released Maguire in on goal and he calmly slid the ball past Trafford keeper Reed to give Spartans a lead they would not surrender.

The second half saw both sides create a number of half chances with neither keeper really tested until a frantic final five minutes. Conor Grant carried on his impressive work at Marine by denying a late drive from Trafford midfielder Ashton and ensured Spartans had their first win of the season.

Spartans winger Robbie Dale hailed the work of his side in the opening two fixtures saying “Both of our first two games have been really tough fixtures but the new lads have settled in and the defence in particular have been amazing. If we keep it tight like that we will win a lot of games because you can see we will definitely score goals”

However Tom Wade sent a warning to his players saying “It’s hard to battle for a full 90 minutes and we have to learn to take chances and put teams away so we avoid that kind of pressure.” That was a warning they failed to take notice of five days later on a dramatic day at Croft Park.

Worksop Town were the visitors in arguably the most entertaining game of the season. Arran Wearmouth made his full debut and what an impact the young winger had on a day where the sides shared six goals.

Before the game there was recognition for an off the field achievement as the club’s Media Manager Phil Castiaux received an Evo-Stik League award for “PR Club of the Year”

Just as they had against Trafford Spartans gave away the first goal of the game. Jack Muldoon’s close range header took a nick off Danny Parker to take it beyond Conor Grant but Spartans hit back with Robbie Dale grabbing his first goal of the season ten minutes before the break. His free kick from the left drifted beyond everyone and nestled just inside the far post.

The first twenty minutes of the second half were all about Spartans as Wearmouth introduced himself to the Green Army in the best possible way. The winger won a penalty just six minutes into the second half after bamboozling Ellis Wall who brought Wearmouth to the ground in the area. Joe Kendrick stepped up and notched his third penalty in three games to put his side ahead.

Just after the hour mark Wearmouth had a goal of his own and what a strike it was. Despite being put under heavy pressure from Tigers defender Higginson the winger crashed a low effort from just inside the area that left keeper Flynn with no chance. Spartans were buoyed by the goal and played some outstanding football but couldn’t grab a fourth despite Matthew Wade and Robbie Dale coming within inches of two wonder goals.

Those missed chances cost Spartans as the Tigers launched a remarkable comeback as the game headed towards the it’s conclusion. With just under ten minutes left Muldoon flicked a header into the far corner of Grant’s net to increase the pressure on Spartans and after Rob Nolan missed a one on one chance that pressure paid off in injury time. Leon Mettam miskicked a Muldoon cross and the flight of the ball deceived Conor Grant to roll into the net and give his side the unlikeliest of points.

A gutted Nathan Buddle described the draw by saying “The manager has rightly just said we absolutely battered them in particular in the second half but fair play to them they kept on pushing and it’s a kick in the teeth”. Tom Wade hailed the impact of the Green Army saying “Overall the atmosphere was excellent, the fans rallied round the lads. Both the supporters and the players learned a lot from the experience. Some of the fans left frustrated but they must believe that the players and management were frustrated too”

Hot on the heels of the Worksop draw was an August Bank Holiday Monday trip to Stocksbridge Park Steels. The Yorkshire outfit are an unpredictable side that were capable of embarrassing any side in the league despite battling against relegation – a battle they would go on to lose this season – and were a tough test for Wade’s side.

Spartans were put under heavy pressure early on with Nathan Joynes going close for the hosts only to see a twenty yard effort go just past Conor Grant’s far post. Spartans almost took the lead on the half hour mark as Parker came within a whisker of his maiden strike for the club flicking on to the far post from a Lee Mason cross.

That miss was punished in somewhat fortuitous circumstances soon after as Chris Bettney gave Steels the lead. His right wing cross seemed destined to sail harmlessly out of play but dropped just inside the far post, to compound Spartans poor fortune Joe Kendrick smashed the crossbar with a spot kick after Robbie Dale has been fouled in the box by Senior.

Spartans took complete control of the second half but were constantly frustrated. Nathan Buddle had a header cleared off the line and substitute Dan Maguire was denied by a brave stop from Steels keeper Scott. However with the full time whistle approaching Rob Nolan found the perfect time to notch his first – and only – competitive Spartans goal. The former North Shields striker took full advantage of a loose ball in the area to roll home from close range and seal a deserved point for his side.

The goalscorer had been unwell pre-match but was a happy man on the way back to Northumbria. “I’m really happy with the goal and to be honest I didn’t think I would get on. I was feeling really ill before the match and didn’t sleep well last night but got on and it was a relief to get on and grab the goal”

The final game of a hectic opening month to the season saw Spartans suffer their first defeat. Matlock Town were the visitors to Croft Park and Mark Atkins side came away with a hard fought 2-1 win. Making a first appearance in the squad that day was another new addition Ian Watson; the former Whitley Bay man took his place on the bench after sealing a move from the Northern League club. The day also marked the departure of winger Lee Mason, who signed for Evo-Stik Northern Premier League rivals Whitby Town.

A blustery Croft Park met the sides and more than played a part in the game. The visitors took the lead when winger Darryl Thomas was given too much time and his cross was met with a cool finish from ten yards from striker Danny Holland. The Gladiators doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half as Holland chested a pass to striker partner Gregory who struck low from the edge of the area just inside Grant’s far post.

On the hour mark Spartans got back in to the game with their fifth penalty in five games. Maguire was fouled by Haggerty and although Kendrick’s spot kick was saved the rebound fell kindly for the Irishman who smashed home the loose ball(pictured below). Wade’s side piled the pressure on to the visitor’s goal but despite Buddle, Watson and Purewal going close the Gladiators dealt Spartans their first defeat of the season.

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Spartans midfielder Damen Mullen was frank in his assessment of the game saying “It was frustrating but we lost the game in the first half if we are honest with ourselves. They played well and took advantage of the wind when it was at their backs and we couldn’t do that, we just didn’t get started. We had chances but we couldn’t put them away”

So the opening month of the season ended with Spartans in mid-table losing just one of their opening five fixtures and the signs of a promising season were on display.

Next week – September: a landmark for Robbie, an FA Cup exit, a remarkable debut at Witton and a first away defeat

Posted by BSAFC Admin