BLYTH Spartans live to fight another day after they came from behind to beat Solihull Moors 2-1 and avoid the drop – for the time being – on a stormy Tuesday night at Croft Park.
With Hinckley United defeating fellow Blue Square Bet North strugglers Vauxhall Motors by the same score-line, anything other than a victory for Spartans would have confirmed their relegation to the Evo-stik Premier division.
And they looked down and out at the interval after a poor first half showing in which they fell behind to a goal from Solihull’s Lee Morris on 32 minutes.
But the famous Spartans spirit shone through in the second period as the home side put on a much better showing with Robert Dale and substitute Lee Mason grabbing the goals to fend off the inevitable, for another four days at least.
The hosts in fact made a promising start to the game with Wayne Phillips striking the upright after just four minutes.
The strike from Morris, however, provided the visitors with renewed impetus and Solihull almost doubled their lead on 41 minutes through Ryan Beswick – who saw his close range effort go just wide of David Knight’s post.
After the game, Blyth’s assistant manager Gavin Fell summed up his side’s first half performance.
“We played alright to begin with and created a few chances, but as per usual we took our foot off the gas and conceded a silly goal when we were on the attack ourselves and ended up getting caught,” he said.
Fell said that the message to the Spartans players from himself and manager Tommy Cassidy at the break was to put all other issues aside and play without pressure.
“We said to them at half-time to just forget about our league position and go out and play with a little bit of freedom, and to be fair they delivered,” he added.
Blyth were playing in a new 4-3-2-1 formation which Fell believes brought the best out of playmaker Dale in the second period.
He said: “Robbie started getting on the ball in the kind of areas that we wanted him to – in between the midfield and their back four.
“He started going past a few players which got the crowd going and all of a sudden the momentum was with us.”
Blyth began to dominate the second half but despite good chances falling to Glen Taylor and substitute Neal Hooks an equaliser continued to elude them.
And just as the Croft Park faithful began to plan their away trips to Rushall Olympic and Mickleover Sports next season, Dale poked home a low cross from Phillips to pull his side level on 73 minutes.
“Once we got our first goal there was only going to be one winner because we had them pinned back to the edge of their own 18-yard box,” said Fell.
Spartans then had a number of chances to take the lead with left back Joe Kendrick seemingly on a one man crusade to find the net.
Firstly he cut in from the left before curling a right footed effort just wide of the upright.
Kendrick then saw a header cleared off the goal line by Danny Spencer before goalkeeper Jasbir Singh denied him with a brilliant save.
Singh made two further stops to prevent both Sam Hodgson and Dan Groves from firing Spartans into the lead, but he appeared to be at fault for Blyth’s winner when Mason won an aerial challenge with him before tapping home from close range.
Fell said: “We could have scored more but I don’t want to do a disservice to the Solihull goalkeeper because he’s pulled off three or four great saves and we began to think it was going to be one of those days before Lee popped up with the winner.”
There is a good chance that Spartans could be relegated over the Easter weekend but Fell is still determined to finish the season strongly.
“We cannot control what happens to us in the league now, all we can control is how we play.
“We have a fantastic fan-base here at Blyth and they deserve to have a smile on their faces as well tonight because it hasn’t been good enough for the majority of the season, but if we can finish off the campaign in a good vein of form that will stand us in good stead for next season.
“We proved tonight that we’re not going down without a fight and over the next five games I expect our players to put in similar performances to the one we showed in the second half.”
Spartans entertain Gainsborough Trinity at Croft Park on Saturday before making the trip down to North Yorkshire to face Harrogate Town on Easter Monday.
Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Kendrick, Hodgson, Jones, Mellish, Taylor (Mason), Ferrel (Hooks), Armstrong, Dale, Phillips. Man of the match: Dale.