Spartans bounce back against Stafford

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RYAN McGorrigan’s second goal in a Spartans shirt ensured that his side put the midweek loss at Worksop Town behind them in the best possible manner. There was a clean sheet for Spartans, three points and a performance that can best be described as a real team effort on a day when positives were aplenty.

Managerial duo Paddy Atkinson and Tom Wade reacted to the defeat against the Tigers by reinstalling Darryll Donnelly, Damon Mullen and Lee Mason to the starting line-up in place of Phil Airey, Carl Jones and Craig Farrell. They were forced into a late change as Joe Kendrick pulled up in the warm up and was replaced by Sam Hodgson, Jake Turnbull taking the former Whitby Town man’s place on the bench.

A bright start from Spartans hinted at better things to come as Robbie Dale played a smart lay off to Damon Mullen who hit a low drive at the near post that forced Rangers’ keeper Danny Read into a smart stop. Atkinson’s side wouldn’t have it all their own way and came within a whisker of going a goal down when Fabrice Kasiama curled an effort past the far post as Conor Grant scrambled across his goal. However there would be no mistake on ten minutes as Spartans took the lead with a superbly worked goal that showed the pass and move culture that Atkinson and Wade are trying to install with their side. Dale, Utterson and Lee Mason combined with a smart passing move that saw the latter released on the inside right channel. Mason took his time and curled an inch perfect cross to the far post that found McGorrigan who cleverly adjusted his body to finish well into the roof of the net from eight yards. The role of winger Damon Mullen shouldn’t be underestimated as his near post run attracted the attention of three of the visitors defenders.

The game would turn scrappy following the goal although to their credit Spartans were still trying to play the passing game and would in fact have the next chance of the game just after the half hour mark. A goal kick from Grant found McGorrigan with his back to goal 30 yards out. He held off the challenge of Michael Carr and rolled the ball to Dale. The winger drove at Rangers defender Dicker and turned him inside out before curling an effort just over the bar from 20 yards out. On the stroke of half time the visitors nearly levelled when winger Davies ghosted past Donnelly and could only find the cross bar with a curled effort from 12 yards out. Spartans suffered an injury blow prior to the interval as Hodgson was forced off with a rib injury and was replaced by Farrell with Spartans needing a reshuffle that saw Mullen employed at left back.

A scrappy start to the opening third of the second half saw both sides battling for supremacy but on the hour mark it swung in Spartans favour. Farrell played a superb ball to release Dale who drifted past Peter Heler and seemed set to score before being brought down by the Rangers midfielder who was promptly dismissed by referee Warren Broadhurst. Farrell stepped up to take the spot kick and scuffed a shot wide of the left hand post and became the third Spartans player in three games to miss a penalty. Both sides made changes with just over 20 minutes to go as Berj replaced Mason and the away side made a double change with Kinsella and Alexander replacing Carr and their top scorer Quinn.

McGorrigan came close to doubling his tally and Spartans lead with on 70 minutes on the clock as he received a pass from Shaun Vipond and cut in from the left wing to crash an effort just past the far post. The former Newcastle United Academy striker would be replaced by fellow Magpies graduate Phil Airey and McGorrigan received a well deserved ovation from the Spartans faithful for a hard working performance topped off by his superbly taken goal. Airey had a golden chance to score with his first touch after he was played in on goal by Farrell but Read stood up and made a smart stop.

As the clock ticked towards full time the visitors played on Spartans nerves and had two chances to snatch a point. A free kick into the Spartans area saw the ball pinging around before falling to Rangers defender Dicker who smashed over from ten yards. They would come even closer two minutes into injury time as Wayne Buchanan headed a cross away from the box but it fell to Lee Downs and the Rangers skipper crashed a stunning volley against the post. It would be Spartans who nearly had the final say as the once again impressive Shaun Utterson broke out of defence and release Airey on the inside right channel. His cross found Farrell at the far post but his effort was superbly saved by Read and the referee blew for full time to ensure Spartans took all three points.

Spartans now travel to Grantham Town on Saturday followed by the visit of Whitley Bay to Croft Park for a Northumberland Senior Cup Quarter Final on Tuesday, November 13.

It has to be said that it has been a tough few days for the club and everyone connected with Blyth Spartans whether they be players, coaches, officials or most importantly the fans. However everyone at the club would like to thank the Green Army for their support today and for creating a positive atmosphere. There were those who predicted a sub 300 attendance at Croft Park today but you have proven them wrong and everyone at the club is grateful for that.

Spartans man of the match: Wayne Buchanan.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Hodgson (Farrell 40), Buchanan, Donnelly, Hooks, Dale, Vipond, McGorrigan (Airey 76), Mason (Berj 67) Subs not used: Jones, Turnbull.