Bannister goals lift Blyth Spartans off the bottom

BLYTH Spartans waited six and a half months to record only their third win in the league this campaign at Colwyn Bay on Saturday.

And just like buses, two have arrived at once as Tommy Cassidy’s side followed up victory in Wales with a 2-1 win against Histon at Croft Park on Tuesday night.

And a bus of the open-top variety will be called for if Spartans can perform the great escape in the remaining 11 games to stave off relegation – which looked a certainty little more than a week ago following a dismal defeat to Worcester City.

Despite back-to-back wins for the first time this season, Cassidy – who was as appointed manager in December – remains realistic about his side’s chances of survival.

“The last two games have given us a bit of hope but we are still in the mire,” he said.

Blyth did move off the bottom of the Blue Square Bet North with Tuesday night’s win.

But the manager added: “It’s important we don’t get carried away and become complacent.”

Against Histon it was the hosts which looked like the side who had endured a five-hour bus journey as they were slow out of the blocks and were duly punished when Daniel Sparkes swept the ball home from just inside the area on 23 minutes to give the visitors a deserved lead.

“We weren’t at the races in the first 20 to 25 minutes and were second to every ball,” said Cassidy.

The goal gave Blyth a much needed wake-up call and within two minutes of going behind they were level through Phil Bannister, who slid home from six yards after a square ball from Shaun Utterson.

Cassidy said: “It was important we responded straight away.

“The longer the game goes on when you’re one nil down at home the harder it becomes to get back into it as the crowd gets frustrated and you can begin to make mistakes.”

After an uninspiring first half, Spartans emerged from the dressing room a different side after some uplifting words from Cassidy at the interval.

“I told them to go out and believe in themselves,” said the Ulsterman, who is firmly of the opinion that his side have more quality than their league position suggests.

“On paper I think we are a mid-table side and I think we showed that at Colwyn Bay.

“I asked for a repeat performance of Saturday at half-time and I got that in the second half to be fair.”

On 57 minutes Bannister scored his second of the evening and his third in two games to put Blyth ahead when he latched on to a through ball from Graeme Armstrong to fire past Histon goalkeeper Jorg Stadlemann.

Cassidy has been pleased with the contribution made by Bannister – who has been plagued by injuries since his arrival at Croft Park last summer.

He said: “Phil scored two tonight and got one on Saturday so I can’t ask any more from him.

“He’s still not fully fit but he’s done very well for me.”

Blyth then had chances to extend their lead before the end.

Firstly, a goalmouth scramble in the away penalty area saw a number of players involved before the referee eventually blew his whistle for an infringement on a Histon player.

Wayne Phillips could have made sure of the points on 77 minutes but blazed over from 14 yards before the hosts saw out a nervy finale to record a first home win in the league since September.

“Over the 90 minutes I think we shaded it,” said Cassidy.

“It wasn’t a great game but points are more important than performances at the minute and the win tonight was crucial.”

Blyth face bottom club Eastwood Town at Croft Park on Saturday (3pm kick-off), knowing that victory would open up a five-point gap between themselves and the Nottinghamshire outfit.

Cassidy, however, will be ensuring that his players are completely focused on Saturday’s game.

“We don’t want people thinking we are going to have an easy time against Eastwood because it will not be like that at all,” he said.

“It’s a big game for us and I’m hoping for a big performance.”

Blyth Spartans: Birdsall, Groves, Kendrick, Hodgson, Buchanan, Mellish, Utterson (Slaughter), Hooks, Armstrong (Cave), Bannister (Taylor), Phillips.

Attendance: 343.