BLYTH Spartans put their miserable festive period behind them by earning a point with a spirited performance against Boston United at the Jakemans Stadium on Saturday.
It was a stark contrast from six days earlier when a woeful Spartans were well beaten by Workington at Croft Park, in a game that seemed to suggest Tommy Cassidy’s new side were destined for relegation to the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
Saturday’s display in Lincolnshire, however, provided evidence that Spartans will not go down without a fight as they found themselves just ten minutes away from recording their first away league victory of the season after Graeme Armstrong had put his side ahead on 52 minutes.
In the end, the visitors had to settle for a share of the spoils as sustained pressure from the hosts finally told when Boston substitute Ryan Semple headed home an equaliser.
Cassidy’s side made the trip back to the north east with their heads held high, but the journey home could have been made even happier if Jamie Mole had found a way past Boston goalkeeper Paul Bastock in the dying seconds of the contest.
The away side made a positive start to the game and had the first chance on five minutes when Bastock could only punch a cross from Phil Cave in to the path of Lee Mason, who dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area.
At the other end, Marc Newsham forced David Knight into making a smart save at his near post.
Armstrong then came close for the visitors when he turned with the ball 30 yards from goal only to fire his shot just past the upright.
Bastock was forced into a double save just before the half-hour mark when he parried an initial shot by Max Harrop before reacting brilliantly to tip away the rebound from Armstrong.
An in-swinging corner from Harrop then almost resulted in an own goal by Tom Ward but the Boston player had his team-mate Jordan Fairclough to thank for clearing off the line.
In the second period Spartans carried on from where they left off in the first and deservedly took the lead when a cross from Wayne Phillips was headed inside the far post by Armstrong – to the delight of the 16 travelling Blyth fans.
It was then backs-to-the-wall stuff for the visitors as The Pilgrims went in search of an equaliser.
Second half substitute Tyrone Kirk hit the Spartans crossbar before the follow up from Semple was dragged just wide of the far post.
Newsham was then just off target with an acrobatic effort and Spartans must have thought it was going to be their lucky day when debutant Jordan Mellish cleared a Jason Lee header off the line with Knight stranded.
The hosts, however, managed to get back on level terms in the 80th minute when the Spartans defence caved in under the pressure of an aerial bombardment and Semple profited by nodding past Knight from close range.
Boston’s player-manager and former Nottingham Forest striker Lee then almost put his side ahead but could not keep his header under the crossbar.
Blyth then had two chances to take all three points from an entertaining game.
Firstly, Glen Taylor teed himself up before hitting a swerving volley which narrowly missed the target.
Then, in the final passage of play, Hooks played a long ball into the path of Spartans’ substitute Mole, who did all the hard work in side-stepping his marker but couldn’t find a way past Bastock from inside the area.
Spartans are on the road again on Saturday when they travel to face Nuneaton Town for another Blue Square Bet North encounter.
Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Cave, Harrop (Hodgson), Buchanan, Mellish, Mason (Slaughter), Hooks, Armstrong (Mole), Taylor, Phillips.