Blyth Spartans denied by late Ashton equaliser

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Opinion will be split on Blyth Spartans dramatic 3-3 draw with play-off rivals Ashton United as to whether it was a point gained or two dropped.

But one thing was certain, Tom Wade’s side can look to their disappointment at Matt Chadwick’s late point saving equaliser as a sign of their progress throughout the season.

A topsy turvy game that had everything put both sets of supporters through the ringer and warmed even the coldest at a lively Hurst Cross where the noise levels far surpassed the attendance.

The home side took the lead inside five minutes with Chadwick taking full advantage of hesitancy in the Spartans back four to lift a 20-yard effort over Michal Misiewicz that dropped just beneath the crossbar.

Shellshocked by the early goal it took some time for Wade’s side to get going, but when they did they created two decent chances.

A lovely through ball from Neal Hooks released the in-form Dan Maguire in on goal but he was forced wide under pressure from United keeper Phillips and the striker could not get the shot away.

Minutes later Matty Wade met a cross from the right from Ian Watson but headed over from ten yards.

Midway through the half the pressure paid off and it was Wade who got his side back on level terms, although the goal owed much to the brilliance of Robbie Dale who tormented every full back – three in total – the home side put on him.

A quick throw released the winger into the area and he skipped past Lynch to find his way to the byline where his low cross found Wade who rolled home from point blank range for his fifth goal of his debut season at Croft Park.

Buoyed by the equaliser, Spartans went in search of another goal and but for the alertness of the home defence they would have found it.

A Hooks corner from the right was floated to the back post and found the head of Nathan Buddle who made a powerful connection only to see his effort cleared off the line.

Within ten minutes of the second half Spartans should have been in front.

An intricate through ball from Wade released Maguire but he fired over the bar with Phillips rushing out to meet him.

Minutes later that miss was punished as the home side got themselves in front again.

A cross from the right was headed goalwards by Dale Johnson and caused Misiewicz to spill the effort and it was gleefully pounced upon by United top scorer Martin Pilkington who was never going to miss from yards out.

To their credit Spartans responded in the best possible fashion and within two minutes they were back on even terms.

It was Lewis Horner who got the goal – his first for the club – as he broke into the area with a slight suspicion of handball.

The referee ignored protests from the hosts and Horner calmly rolled the ball beyond Phillips, meaning every Spartans outfield player in the current squad has scored this season, although the newly signed Shaun Utterson is still to make his second debut for the club.

Horner was at the heart of the action just two minutes after his goal as he was involved in an incident that saw United midfielder Gary Gee dismissed by referee Ollie Yates.

A meaty challenge between the pair saw the official indicate Gee had stamped on Horner, a decision that incensed the home crowd and at the time their rage seemed to be justified.

Spartans kept their heads and went for the jugular with Dale looking imperious on the left, a factor that saw his second marker of the day substituted.

With five minutes left Spartans took the lead for the first time in the game with a goal that came from the left hand side, although it was not Dale who created it.

Maguire drove down the wing before firing a cross to the far post that was met with a firm volley by Arran Wearmouth who could not hide his delight at scoring his first Spartans goal since the home draw with Worksop Town in August.

But with the game deep into injury time there was to be a sting in the tail for Spartans as former player Greg Pearson lined up a 20-yard free kick. His effort smashed off the wall before falling perfectly for Chadwick, who made no mistake from eight yards out to snatch a draw that those of United persuasion will feel was merited.

For Wade and his Spartans side the positives outweigh the negatives as they gain a point at a venue where they were outfought, outthought and outplayed last season.

If they continue to replicate the style and commitment on display not only on Saturday but over the last month then they will certainly be there or thereabouts come the end of the season when the play-off spots are decided.

Given pre-season talk of merely surviving in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, even talking of a play-off challenge eyes must be seen as a positive for everyone connected with the club.

Spartans’ man of the match was Danny Parker.

Blyth Spartans: Misiewicz, Buddle, Kendrick, Purewal, Parker, Wade (Hubbard 80), Horner, Watson (Wearmouth 76), Maguire, Hooks, Dale. Subs not used: Cummings, Utterson.

Attendance: 147.