Blyth bring to an end 168 days without a league win

BLYTH Spartans finally ended their run of 168 days without a league win in north Wales on Saturday.

Goals from Phil Bannister and a Joe Kendrick penalty secured the rare three points at Colwyn Bay.

They were helped in their quest to secure the elusive win by the return of four key players, with Wayne Phillips, Jordan Mellish, Dan Groves and Bannister all named in the starting line-up.

The changes resulted in Glen Taylor, Carl Jones, Phil Cave and Richie Slaughter all dropping down to the bench.

Following a cagey start to the game, Spartans fashioned the first clear opening on five minutes.

Phillips rampaged down the left wing, leaving the Colwyn Bay right back trailing in his wake before spearing in a dangerous cross to the in-rushing Graeme Armstrong, but his firm header back across the goal was acrobatically tipped wide by Metcalfe for a Spartans corner.

On 11 minutes an intelligent clipped pass from the right hand side of the penalty area by Bannister caused confusion at the heart of the host’s defence and Armstrong was unlucky to see his shot blocked by the legs of Metcalfe, with Bannister unable to connect with the rebound as the ball ricocheted to safety.

The first Colwyn Bay attack came on 14 minutes when a long diagonal cross-field pass evaded the Spartans defence and was met with a header by Jon Newby, but the player-manager’s effort was aimed straight into the grateful arms of Spartans keeper Robert Birdsall.

Spartans took the lead on 30 minutes.

A neat move saw the ball moved quickly from the left hand side of the pitch to the right, where winger Shaun Utterson was able to drive infield before shooting left footed towards goal, whilst the shot was straight at Melcalfe, the ball squirmed though the legs of the keeper and Bannister was on hand to reach the ball, under pressure from a Bay defender, to score his first goal for the club in what has been an injury ravaged season for the front man.

The remainder of the opening half was pretty uneventful until the dying seconds when Newby got time and space and fired in a low, dangerous right wing cross which ran harmlessly out of play on the far side of the pitch, with Colwyn Bay players frantically sliding at the ball in an attempt to turn it home.

The opening attack of the second arrived on 50 minutes and again saw the Spartans on the front foot.

A neat, incisive move involving Seb Anzevui, Bannister and Armstrong, saw the ball fed out to the overlapping right back Dan Groves.

The former Darlington man was able to glide through two tackles but his near post cross was well held by Metcalfe under pressure from Bannister.

Spartans survived a scare on 64 minutes as a counter-attack saw Meadowcroft break through three Spartans tackles and make his way into the box, but Birdsall was out smartly to thwart the attacker.

The visitors were then handed a golden opportunity to extend their lead on 75 minutes.

Colwyn Bay captain Meadowcroft was attempting to usher a ball out of play on the left hand side of the penalty area, but with the ball not having sufficient strength to reach the goal line, Armstrong seized on the opportunity only to see his momentum halted by the trailing leg of Meadowcroft, giving the referee no option but to award Blyth a penalty.

New signing Kendrick, on loan from Mansfield Town, stepped up and smashed the ball to the keeper’s left, giving him no chance and extending Spartans’ lead.

For a team without a win for so long and yet to win under manager Tommy Cassidy, it was inevitable that the last 15 minutes would be nervous and edgy, but with the Spartans rearguard holding strong – and on the rare occasions that the defensive line was breached the excellent Birdsall was there to mop up any danger – saw Spartans hold on to record a much needed victory and provide the club with a glimmer of hope of avoiding the drop.

Spartans manager Cassidy and assistant Gavin Fell will hope Saturday’s form and attitude can be maintained over the next two home games.

Blyth were due to entertain Histon on Tuesday night before facing another side haunted by relegation Eastwood Town on Saturday at Croft Park, 3pm kick-off)

Blyth Spartans: Birdsall, Groves, Kendrick, Anzevui, Buchanan, Mellish, Utterson (Slaughter), Hooks, Armstrong, Bannister (Taylor) and Phillips (Cave). Subs not used: Jones and Knight.

Attendance: 279.