Blyth denied by woodwork as Warrington take all three points

Blyth Spartans' Jarrett Rivers.
Blyth Spartans' Jarrett Rivers.

Blyth Spartans were left cursing their luck after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Warrington Town on Tuesday evening.

The home side were left frustrated after hitting the woodwork three times in the Evo-Stik Premier League clash.

Tom Peers and Scott Metcalfe put Town two goals up within the first 20 minutes before Andrew Cartwright rattled both the post and the bar moments before the break.

Ciaran Kilheeney rounded off the scoring with a fantastic solo effort on 65 minutes before Luke Armstrong and Robert Dale both saw efforts bounce clear off the frame of the Warrington goal.

With star striker Daniel Maguire forced to sit the game out with a calf injury, young striker Armstrong was deployed up top on his own with Sean Reid sat in behind.

With Reid on seven goals for the season in all competitions, he would have hoped the more advanced role would help him bear down on Maguire at the top of the club’s goal scoring standings.

Jarrett Rivers started the game well for the hosts and dictated their opening spells of play in the first five minutes, twice causing panic in the Warrington back line.

Both times saw the former Blackpool winger jink into the box from the right, but his first shot went wide on three minutes and then he could only fire wide two minutes later.

Ten minutes into the contest, Metcalfe fired a warning shot across goal that required Adam McHugh to dive to his left to parry it behind.

That warning was ignored, however, as Town took the lead a minute later following the resulting set-piece.

After the initial clearance from the corner, the ball was played back down the right wing in towards Peers. Free and in space in the middle of the box, the Warrington striker was able to convert with the simplest of headers past McHugh.

Things looked to get even worse for Spartans when Kilheeney easily slotted home in the 17th minute after the ball bobbled about in the Blyth box. But the striker, who famously punched the ball off the line without punishment for Droylsden in an FA Trophy tie at Croft Park back in 2011, did not get the benefit of the doubt from the assistant referee this time as he was rightly flagged offside.

Just as Warrington’s last warning resulted in a goal, one minute later history repeated itself as Town doubled their lead within 60 seconds of Kilheeney’s effort being ruled out.

Some excellent play from the visitors saw them turn up the pressure and force another fine save from McHugh. However, the ball managed to fall perfectly to Metcalfe on the left and he fired home.

Two goals inside seven minutes had rocked Blyth, but the home side were cruelly unable to halve the deficit four minutes later as some fantastic defending denied them an instant response.

Michael Liddle cut the ball back across the goal from the byline, which ran into the path of Matthew Pattison. The former Newcastle United midfielder tried to place it into the bottom corner but his effort was hacked away by a Warrington foot on the line.

Blyth then had another chance to get themselves back into the game when Pattison looked to have turned provider just prior to the half-hour mark. His cross picked out Dale at the edge of the box and the Spartans captain tried to curl one into the top corner but could not execute his chance correctly and the ball went harmlessly wide.

In the dying seconds of the first half, Cartwright had a try at goal and nearly converted it. His cross-shot from the right was heading more towards the back post than he had planned as the ball cannoned off both bar and post with Karl Wills well beaten.

Spartans manager Alun Armstrong sensed his side needed a change to try and reinvigorate themselves in the second half, so he replaced Reid with Michael Richardson and looked to provide more support for Armstrong at the spearhead of the attack.

Despite that attacking change it was the same defender that went close before the break that had the first real chance of the second half.

A great Blyth break saw the ball played to Rivers on the right, with Cartwright bursting forward in support. The winger laid the ball back to his teammate at the edge of Town’s box, but Cartwright’s shot could only clear the crossbar.

It was that man Cartwright again who went close three minutes after the hour mark when he cut in from the right and ghosted towards the edge of the area. He opted to try to curl one inside the top corner of the far post but it went over once more.

If that was frustrating for Spartans to witness, it was nothing compared to events two minutes later as Warrington went even further ahead.

Kilheeney was played in following a one-two and showed sheer class by dancing through the Blyth back line with comfortable ease. The run was lovely and it was topped off fittingly with a calm and collected finish as he gently rolled the ball past McHugh.

Despite being three goals down, Blyth continued to try and claw themselves back into the game and Rivers went close on 69 minutes as he struck one from 30 yards. The ball was dipping as soon as it left his foot, but it still only nestled on top of the Warrington net.

If Rivers nearly found the net, then Armstrong went as close as he could to scoring without raising his hands in celebration. His backwards header from Richardson’s cross flew past Wills but bounced clear off the bar and away from danger.

Substitute Matthew Wade, on for Pattison in the 66th minute, played a fantastic through ball for Armstrong within six minutes of coming on. The young striker was felled in the area by John Shaw, causing the Spartans supporters to roar for a penalty, but the Warrington defender had appeared to win the ball first with his sliding tackle.

Spartans had been frustrated by hitting the woodwork twice already, but it was to get even more infuriating from a free-kick on 72 minutes.

Dale stepped up for the right wing set-piece and aimed a shot at the far post. Wills remained static and watched the ball go past him, but Dale’s shot rattled the stanchion of post and bar to give the Warrington stopper yet another reprieve.

That pretty much summed up a very disappointing night for Spartans as the game fizzled out in the final ten minutes.

The Croft Park faithful will be hoping for a vast improvement from their side when Blyth play host to Mickleover Sports on Saturday.

Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Cartwright, Liddle, Turnbull (Nicholson 66), Buddle, Hutchinson, Rivers, Pattison (Wade 66), Armstrong, Reid (Richardson 46), Dale. Subs not used: Caines, Bell.

Attendance: 507.