Blyth Spartans celebrate winning Evo-Stik Premier League title

Sean Reid is congratulated after putting Blyth Spartans 2-0 ahead against Halesowen. Picture by Bill Broadley
Sean Reid is congratulated after putting Blyth Spartans 2-0 ahead against Halesowen. Picture by Bill Broadley

Blyth Spartans secured the Evo-Stik Premier League title with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Halesowen Town on Saturday.

Luke Armstrong put the home side ahead on 18 minutes before Sean Reid headed in a second five minutes after the restart.

Substitute Adam Wrightson wrapped up the scoring with six minutes to go to start Spartans’ title celebrations in front of a superb 1,167-strong Croft Park crowd.

Following the club’s midweek 1-0 win at Rushall Olympic, Alun Armstrong opted to name an unchanged starting 11 for the visit of Halesowen. Ryan Hutchinson continued at right-back in David Atkinson’s absence, while Jordan Watson filled in alongside Nathan Buddle in the heart of defence.

With the large Croft Park crowd roaring them on, Spartans went close to an early goal after just four minutes. Robert Dale’s whipped cross looked destined to be turned home by Reid, before it was flapped away by Daniel Platt.

The Halesowen stopper had to be at his best again from the resulting corner when he punched the ball just off the head of Reid once more.

Spartans then had two good shouts for a penalty waved away on 11 minutes as Dan Maguire went down following a challenge by Platt chasing Armstrong’s cross. But the referee awarded a corner, which again saw Croft Park erupt after the ball struck the arm of Ethan Delaney in the area with his hands above his head.

Another corner two minutes later saw Blyth go close once again, with Buddle forcing a header towards goal at the far post, but Platt was able to hold it well on the line.

Dale then tried his luck with a long drive from the left just after the 15-minute mark, but a Halesowen head was able to help the ball just evade the top of the bar.

Spartans’ early dominance was finally rewarded in the 18th minute when a fantastic lofted ball from Dale released Armstrong in the area. The 20-year-old took it down and feinted a shot before rolling the ball in off the post.

The home side should have doubled their lead soon after when a scintillating passage of play ended with Dale picking out Reid at the back post. But with an almost open goal to aim at the midfielder somehow managed to fluff his lines and put it wide.

Another headed effort should have resulted in Blyth doubling their lead just after the half hour when Jarrett Rivers’ cross was headed clear as far as David McTiernan. The midfielder’s header looked to be going wide until Armstrong nodded it towards goal, but somehow he put his effort over from only a few yards out when he should have scored.

In what was beginning to become a sense of déjà vu for the Croft Park faithful, Dale once again picked out Reid at the back stick on 37 minutes. Although he was faced with a tighter angle than his previous miss, he could still only find the side-netting.

One minute later, Maguire picked the ball up on the right and went on a darting run towards goal. He jinked inside and tried to curl one in from the edge of the area, but Platt thwarted him with an outstanding save to keep Halesowen in the game at the break.

Halesowen came out looking to spoil the promotion party straight from the restart as Andre Johnson broke through and chipped Paul Woolston, but the on-loan Newcastle United stopper clattered into the forward, but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside before Town could appeal for a penalty.

If the visitors had hoped that would kick-start their fortunes, it was not to be as Blyth grabbed a second just two minutes later.

A hard strike from Armstrong was forcibly punched away by Platt, but he was helpless moments later as Dale’s corner picked out Reid, who finally headed home with his third attempt of the afternoon.

Top scorer Maguire went in search of a goal himself but could only fire wide across Platt on 52 minutes when he was picked out perfectly in the area by Michael Liddle.

Maguire then slid in trying to turn home a cross soon after, but Halesowen’s defence managed to clear the ball over the bar from a yard out.

Another Rivers cross caused Town all sorts of problems when it fell perfectly for Dale at the far post. The Spartans captain fierce half-volley looked set to smash the back of the net, but was headed behind on the post.

Reid, buoyed by his earlier goal, tried to double up with 12 minutes to go from the edge of the Town box. However, Platt was able to get his body behind the ball to keep it out.

Spartans were not to be denied a third, though, and it came through a beautiful Blyth break on 84 minutes.

Dale chipped the ball up over Platt from the byline and Wrightson, who had come on for Armstrong two minutes earlier, raced in to beat his man and send Croft Park in hysterics once again, with shouts of ‘championes’ ringing out around the ground.

Spartans, who remained on the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate with the fans, travel to Ashton United for their final away game of the season next Saturday.

Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Hutchinson, Liddle, Reid, Buddle, Watson, Rivers (Pattison 74), McTiernan (Laidler 84), Maguire, Armstrong (Wrightson 82), Dale. Subs not used: Pell, Cartwright.