By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Tuesday September 27 2016
Blyth Spartans 0-0 Spennymoor Town
Blyth Spartans and Spennymoor Town were unable to be separated in an entertaining 0-0 draw in this Evo-Stik Premier League clash – as the home side ended their three-game losing streak in new manager Alun Armstrong’s first match in charge.
Both sides had plenty of chances to claiming all three points, but neither Peter Jeffries nor former Spartans stopper Dan Lowson came close to losing their clean sheets.
Unfortunately for Blyth though, they also saw star striker Daniel Maguire succumb to a calf injury that forced off the club’s top scorer so far this season in the first half.
The new Spartans boss took charge of the club for the first time and stamped his mark straight on the team sheet, by opting to play 4-4-2 – as opposed to the 4-3-3 preferred by his predecessor Tom Wade. That meant that A Armstrong brought son Luke Armstrong back in for his second start of the season, to lead the line alongside Daniel Maguire.
And it was L Armstrong putting himself about in the box that lead to Blyth’s first chance of the evening.
Michael Liddle tried to pick out L Armstrong at the back post, but it was headed away before he could connect with it. The clearance went only as far as Sean Reid at the edge of the area, but the midfielder could only hit his first-time effort wide.
Glen Taylor – a Spartans centre-forward during the 2011/12 relegation season – made a return to Croft Park and must have thought his luck was in, when a bobbling through ball presented him with the perfect opportunity to open the scoring for Spennymoor.
Unluckily for the former Spartan, however, the ball was still bobbling when he went to shoot. Therefore, he failed to test Peter Jeffries from a few yards out, when he really should have.
Both sides were trying to take the initiative in an entertaining opening 15 minutes and it was the hosts that twice went closest to breaking the deadlock.
First, Jarrett Rivers laid the ball off for Michael Liddle to fire just over across goal from the edge of the area. Two minutes later, Rivers turned former Gateshead defender James Curtis inside and out, but could only fire over after cutting back inside once more.
Just as it looked as if Blyth were settling into their groove, Maguire went down in the Town area with a calf injury. Despite being able to walk off the pitch, he was unable to continue and made way for Michael Richardson – as Robert Dale moved forward to fill the space vacated by “Nipa.”
Spennymoor certainly weren’t here to just make the numbers up and they forced a series of blocks from the Spartans defence just prior to the half-hour mark, before Robert Ramshaw fired horribly wide when he was found free at the edge of the area.
The visitors then enjoyed a sustained spell of possession six minutes later, that nearly presented Spennymoor with a glorious chance. Taylor was once again gearing himself up to try his luck from a few yards out, but Nathan Buddle raced over to dive at his feet and deny him a shot at goal.
With the first half drawing to a close, L Armstrong was presented with another chance to put his father’s side ahead. Dale found him with a hard cross from the right but – instead of opting to shoot first-time – the 20-year-old tried to take a touch to set himself and didn’t have the time to get a shot away.
Blyth came straight back out the blocks after the restart, when young forward L Armstrong appeared to beat the offside trap within the first two minutes of the second half. Closing down on Lowson’s goal, he was only stopped in his tracks by the assistant’s raised flag.
Dale was next to go for a run from midfield – as he danced through Town’s half unopposed. The Spartans captain got himself into the box and shot with the outside of his foot, but his curling effort across goal was blocked behind.
Jamie Chandler – another ex-Gateshead player in the Spennymoor ranks – tried to emulate Dale but go one better soon after – as he approached the Blyth box with the ball at his feet. Despite being in unfamiliar territory at the back, midfielder Pattison stopped him dead with a fantastic challenge to bring a halt to the danger.
With less than 20 minutes to go, it was Blyth who came within inches of breaking the deadlock. L Armstrong’s drilled cross looked destined for the head of Richardson, who tried his best to head in, but the ball just escaped him.
Moors had a real chance to continue Spartans’ run of conceding late goals when Craig Gott swung a free-kick into substitute Graeme Armstrong – another mis-firing striker from Spartans’ relegation season. However, in a familiar sight to most inside Croft Park during that ill-fated spell, G Armstrong ballooned his header wide when free.
Spennymoor were finishing the stronger of the two sides and another golden opportunity came from Gott feeding G Armstrong from a free-kick two minutes later.
This time, however, the forward nodded the ball on to Shane Henry, who was free at the edge of the box. The midfielder opted to meet the ball with a shot, but fired wide when he really should have scored.
Following that, both sides were happy to see out the game’s final few moments to share the spoils in a fiercely contested top-of-the-table clash.
With Spartans’ exit from this season’s Emirates FA Cup meaning they have a free Saturday, the new gaffer now has a full week to get his side prepared for the visit of Warrington Town next Tuesday.
Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Cartwright, Liddle, Buddle, Hutchinson, Pattison, Rivers (Nicholson 69), Reid, Maguire (Richardson 23), L Armstrong, Dale.
Subs not used: Wade, Caines, Bell.
Spennymoor Town: Lowson, Griffiths, Mason, Chandler, Curtis, Swain, Ramshaw (Johnson 78), Henry, Taylor (G Armstrong 72), Fisher (Dowson 63), Gott.
Subs not used: Tait, Rafferty.
Spartans Man of the Match: Andrew Cartwright
Armstrong Enjoys Promising Start to Spartans Career Against Spennymoor
New boss Alan Armstrong enjoyed a “great” start to his Spartans career – as he helped halt Blyth’s losing streak with a draw against Spennymoor Town.
Armstrong took to the home dugout at Croft Park for the first time ahead of Tuesday’s 0-0 Evo-Stik Premier League draw with Spennymoor, which ended a run of three successive losses in all competitions.
And despite suffering a bout of nerves during the game, the former Stockport County, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town striker “thoroughly enjoyed” his managerial debut.
Armstrong admitted: “It was really nerve-wracking, to be honest with you. I was excited, but the nervousness crept in during the last five minutes when people started to get tired.
“Mistakes started to happen, but I suppose that’s football management for you. I did enjoy it though, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It’s a bit different to what I’m used to, but I thought it was great.”
The 41-year-old had only met his players for the first time prior to the game, but he had no complaints with the effort and determination they showed for him and has backed his players to build on that result for the rest of the season.
Armstrong added: “I thought the lads deserved what they got and I don’t think Spennymoor caused us too many problems, bar a couple of half-chances.
“It’s been a hell of a week for the lads. To go through those three games, Tom leaving and me coming in has been a massive upheaval for them. It was the first time I’d met the players before the game and I couldn’t have asked any more of them.
“I thought the lot of them, all the way through, worked their socks off and they thoroughly deserved what they got. My main focus was to stop the rot and that’s exactly what we did.
“I’ll make no bones about it, Spennymoor will be up there at the end of the season. They’re a good side and they’ve got some great players.
“Without a doubt though, we’ll be up there as well.”
Having seen Spartans’ defence leak goals prior to his arrival, Armstrong set about plugging the gaps and his plans played out perfectly – as Blyth kept a clean sheet for the first time since their 5-0 demolition of Sutton Coldfield Town.
Armstrong explained: “I’ll get to work on the forward play and our attacking movement, but I just wanted to make sure we stopped conceding goals. After shipping nine goals in three games, we had to make sure we got back to basics, stopped conceding goals and started working as a team.
“Keeping a clean sheet was my main focus before the game. I’d gone through the team in the last couple of days and watched the highlights from our last few games to see the goals we’d conceded.
“There were just too many gaps, a lot of individual errors and some people not working hard for each other in those games. So, I just thought we’ll go back to 4-4-2 – as everyone knows their role and there’s no point in complicating things.
“All I asked was for the lads to do their job, play for each other and keep a clean sheet. If we can defend first, then we can work on everything else and that’s what we did.”
Despite the positivity that came from avoiding defeat in his first game as Blyth boss, Armstrong was left frustrated when a calf injury forced top scorer Daniel Maguire to go off in the first half against Spennymoor. However, he is hoping that others can step up while “Nipa” sits out on the sidelines.
The 41-year-old said: “I’m gutted for Nipa – as he’s an integral part of my plans. I do like playing two up top, because – having played up there myself – I know how hard it is as a lone striker running around.
“It’s a calf injury and, normally, you’re looking at 3-4 weeks. I don’t know how Nipa feels, but I don’t want to rush him back – as, like I say, he’s integral to the team.
“I thought he looked really sharp and him and Luke worked really well together. We’ll have a look at it in a couple of weeks and see how he is.
“We’ve got enough to cover at the minute. We’ve got Robbie, who can play up there and it also gives Luke the opportunity to maybe get a good run of games and show what he can do.
“It’s football management though, isn’t it? Unfortunately, these things happen and you just have to find a way to deal with it.
“I don’t want to bring people in who aren’t as good as what we’ve got, so we’ll just deal with these things as they come.”