Controversial injury time penalty denies Blyth

Blyth Spartans celebrate a goal in their 3-3 draw with Rushall Olympic. Picture by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans celebrate a goal in their 3-3 draw with Rushall Olympic. Picture by Bill Broadley

A controversial late penalty from Rushall Olympic captain Gavin Caines saw Blyth Spartans drop two points in a entertaining affair at Croft Park.

A Dan Maguire goal and a Michael Richardson brace had given Spartans a chance of taking the three points, although the Pics were never really out of the game thanks to a pair of goals from the dangerous looking Aaron Williams.

With Spartans looking as if they were comfortably seeing out time referee Barry Gordon awarded the spot kick that Caines put away to leave Spartans ruing a whole host of missed chances to seal the points.

The first chance fell to Spartans as Robbie Dale flicked on a crossfield ball from Alex Nicholson that found the overlapping Damen Mullen, and the full back played a neat one-two with Maguire before lashing over the bar from just outside of the area.

Within a minute the visitors had their first chance and should have taken the lead.

A neat chip over the top of the home back four released Jake Heath and the winger tried to go around Nick Thomson but the young keeper blocked well.

That was punished in the best possible way by Spartans as they took the lead in the 12th minute.

Jarrett Rivers dazzled down the right, bamboozling Pics full back Callum Williams as he danced into the area. That gave him the chance to play in Maguire and the striker was the coolest person inside Croft Park as he cut inside the challenge of Caines before rolling home from 12 yards.

However, far from kicking on, Spartans were pegged back as the Pics came into the game and got a deserved equaliser in the 25th minute with a classy finish from striker Aaron Williams.

The striker got in behind the Spartans back four and was given time to cut inside the challenge of Ryan Hutchinson before curling home right footed from just inside the area.

Spartans, to their credit, regrouped and regained the lead on the half hour with a wonder goal from Richardson. The former Newcastle United youngster collected a flick from Rivers and from all of 20 yards smashed the ball home on the volley with his left foot.

The midfielder extended Spartans lead two minutes later with his second of the game, and again it came courtesy of a Rivers assist, his third of the day. The winger found Richardson on the edge of the Pics area and he struck a low drive that was taken past the visitors keeper Ryan Price by a deflection off the knee of Aris Christophorou.

Two injuries forced Tom Wade into a pair of substitutions either side of Richardson’s brace. Hutchinson and Matthew Wade were forced off, to be replaced by Dan Hawkins and Stephen Turnbull.

Turnbull almost announced his arrival with a goal within five minutes. A foul on Rivers gave the former Hartlepool United man a chance 20 yards from goal but he could only curl his free kick over the wall and against the outside of the near post.

Again Spartans were pegged back, and again it was Williams, although it had a lot to do with the static defending from the home side. A nonchalant through ball by Carl Palmer released Williams in on goal and he made no mistake.

Maguire almost reinstated Spartans’ two-goal advantage with the half-time whistle about to blow. A clever through ball from Dale took a bobble and the striker’s first touch saw the ball bounce up above his head, however, Maguire improvised with an acrobatic overhead kick that drifted just wide of the near post.

Spartans created some half chances with an exciting opening to the second half, but the first real chance fell to the visitors as Williams squandered an opportunity to seal his hat-trick and grab an equaliser for his side.

Another long ball in behind caught the Spartans back four square and with Thomson caught in no man’s land Williams tried to chip the keeper but the ball fell wide of the near post.

Spartans’ riposte to that let off came from Maguire as the energetic striker created some space inside the area after being played in by Neal Hooks. A lunging challenge from Caines was seen off as Maguire cut inside the despairing Pics captain but his low shot was deflected wide by a last-ditch block by Kris Taylor.

With ten minutes remaining Spartans could have had that two-goal lead once again, although it would have been courtesy of a defensive lapse from the visitors. An awful cross-field ball across his own area by Pics right back Tolley only found Rivers and the winger’s first touch allowed him to try a volley at goal from the edge of the area but it comfortably cleared Price’s crossbar.

Spartans almost handed the Pics an equaliser with the full-time whistle approaching as a poor header from Alex Nicholson almost managed to undo a solid afternoon of work for the former Newcastle United academy product. A weak headed back pass allowed Williams in for his hat-trick goal but the alert goalkeeping of Thomson saw him clear the ball, not for the first time.

But there was to be a sting in the tail for Spartans with a penalty with the game ticking into injury time.

A ball into the Spartans area caused havoc but Parker seemed to clear the danger but referee Barry Gordon awarded a spot kick for Parker’s challenge on Williams.

Pics captain Caines sent Thomson the wrong way to ensure his side took a point from a game that Spartans really should have killed off long before the controversial award of the penalty.

They now move on to Tuesday’s home fixture with Barwell as they look to continue a run of form that now stands at one defeat in 12 games, although that will mean little to many after a desperately disappointing result.

Blyth Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Mullen, Parker, Hutchinson (Hawkins 33), Hooks, Richardson, Dale, Maguire, Wade, Rivers. Subs not used: Wearmouth, Lynch, Davis.

Attendance: 451.