Blyth Spartans again denied win by late leveller

For a second consecutive away game a late goal cost Blyth Spartans a valuable three points on the road and meant they are still awaiting their first away win since late September.

Relegation threatened Stafford Rangers grabbed a point through substitute Daniel Cope’s late leveller that left a result which was far from ideal for either side as they look to achieve their respective targets this season.

After the Marston Road pitch passed an inspection at 8am there was further damage to the surface with a torrential downpour prior to kick-off, and it was home side who adapted their game quicker.

On seven minutes debutant Brian Smikle whipped a cross in and that allowed striker James McCarthy to get above Ian Watson and head home from eight yards out.

Slowly but surely Spartans found their feet and just before the quarter of an hour mark they had their first chance as Paul Robinson looped a header over the bar from Joe Kendrick’s in-swinging free kick.

However, they were soon on even terms with a wonder goal from Robbie Dale.

An intricate pass from Neal Hooks found the winger on the angle of the area and after taking one touch to steady himself Dale sumptuously curled a wonderful right footed effort into the far corner.

That goal filled Spartans with confidence and they took over the game.

Dale was the tormentor in chief once again as he found Maguire 20 yards out, but the 20-goal striker could only drag a shot wide of the far post.

Minutes later Spartans had the lead as centre back Danny Parker crashed home a header from eight yards as he met a pinpoint Robinson corner from the right.

Tom Wade’s side had three golden chances to extend their lead in the ten minutes before the interval.

Firstly Robinson curled a 12-yard effort over the bar from a Maguire pull back, then hesitancy cost Maguire himself as he tried to be cute when set up by Arran Wearmouth.

Finally in first half injury time Robinson dragged a shot wide of the far post after turning Johnson inside out.

Within five minutes of the second half starting, Dale was at it again as he blasted low at goal from just inside the box, but with keeper Brain beaten, Rangers centre back Chadwick got the slightest touch to deflect the ball against the far post and away to safety.

The chances were racking up and there was always a nagging feeling that the one goal lead would never be enough.

With every missed opportunity the home side grew in confidence, and they had chances of the own within the last ten minutes, but not before Maguire forced Brain into a smart stop from his cross-shot.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Levi Reid found the side netting from a narrow angle, but that miss was quickly made up for.

Winger Alex Curtis was given time to cross from the left and he curled a ball in behind a static Spartans defence to find Daniel Cope who finished well from close range.

Spartans almost hit straight back a minute later as Craig Hubbard brought an intelligent stop from Brain, who tipped the midfielder’s left foot effort over the bar.

An ever better chance was passed with a minute left when the returning Ash Davis curled a ball to the far post but Watson failed to make sufficient contact to force the ball over the line.

There was to be one last scare for Spartans in injury time but the impressive Smikle could only hit the side netting and a disappointed Spartans returned home with just one point when all three were there for the taking.

Next up for Spartans - who are still unbeaten in 2014 - is a home fixture with Buxton next Saturday

Spartans’ man of the match was Neal Hooks.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Watson, Kendrick, Buddle, Parker, Wade (Hubbard 70), Horner, Wearmouth (Davis 84), Maguire, Hooks, Dale (Utterson 75) Subs not used: Horner, Purewal.

Attendance: 319.