Disputed late penalty costs Spartans two points

A controversial late penalty saw Blyth Spartans pegged back and allowed AFC Fylde to travel back to the Lancashire coast with a point that seemed unlikely.

Referee Kevin Mulraine awarded a spot kick for a foul on Coasters winger Daniel Lloyd McGoldrick as he went to ground just outside the box after minimal contact from two Spartans players.

Richard Allen sent Conor Grant the wrong way and that cancelled out Dan Maguire’s first half goal that sent Tom Wade’s side into half-time in front, although the Spartans manager will look back on several golden opportunities that were squandered.

The opening stages of the game could be best described as tentative with both sides finding their feet slowly.

It took until the 15th minute for the first chance and it fell to Maguire, who cut in from the left to bend a right footed effort from 20 yards goalwards but Coasters keeper Ben Hinchcliffe was equal to the effort.

The first chance for the visitors came seconds later as Lewis Horner scrambled a loose ball off the line after Grant had got a hand to McGoldrick’s strong shot.

The first moment of controversy in the game came on 20 minutes as Bradley Barnes was booked for a heavy tackle on Arran Wearmouth.

Referee Mulraine showed a yellow card although the home crowd in Croft Park would not have been surprised if a red card had been brandished.

McGoldrick was proving to be a thorn in the side of Spartans and was guilty of wasting a good opportunity to give his side the lead on the half hour mark.

Good work from left back Adam Sumner saw McGoldrick find a yard of space on the edge of the area but he could only slice well wide of Grant’s far post.

That miss was punished in the best possible manner by Spartans as they took the lead through a familiar source.

Danny Parker sent a long ball forward that was instinctively flicked on by Matthew Wade that released top scorer Maguire in on goal and he made no mistake as he slid goal number 21 of the season past the advancing Hinchcliffe.

Barnes was lucky to escape further a further caution and a resultant red card for yet another foul on Wearmouth with the young winger putting in an impressive opening 45 minutes.

As that half came to an end the visitors should have gone in on level terms but substitute Andrew Russell could only head Sumner’s cross from the left over from only eight yards out.

A lively start to the second period saw Spartans create a great chance as Wade and Maguire combined again. The former sent Maguire in on goal but Hinchcliffe denied the striker a second, saving well with his feet.

A feature of the game was the hard-working and strong show from Coasters forward Matt Blinkhorn, who already had a Croft Park goal to his name this season after scoring in Fylde’s FA Cup victory earlier in September.

He should have added to that as he pounced on a loose ball after Spartans failed to clear but dragged a shot across goal from a narrow angle.

Blyth were creating a number of chances but could not grab that second killer goal.

Robbie Dale sent a 20-yard shot over the bar and he sent in a perfect cross for Maguire, but his header was well saved by Hinchcliffe.

As the clock ticked into the last ten minutes Paul Robinson was introduced, replacing Matthew Wade.

The former Whitley Bay man almost made a spectacular entrance as his 30-yard rocket was tipped over by Hinchcliffe.

Dale and Maguire combined well soon after but the striker narrowly failed to make contact with Dale’s cross when any touch from the former Seaton Delaval man would have surely led to three points for Spartans.

There was a growing suspicion that the missed chances would come back to haunt Wade’s side, but nobody could have predicted the controversial manner in which they would be pegged back.

McGoldrick collected a ball 20 yards from goal and ran towards the edge of the area. He tried to entice a tackle from two Spartans defenders and went down under minimal contact landing in the area, despite the challenge coming outside the box.

Referee Mulraine pointed to the spot, much to the bewilderment of the Spartans faithful inside Croft Park, and Nathan Buddle was shown a yellow card for his role in the protests.

Richard Allen stepped up and calmly rolled the ball home to nab a point for his side.

For Spartans a point was not enough for the performance they put in, but they do remain on the coat tails of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League play-off spots.

There were good performances from everyone in the squad and the Green Army more than played their part off the pitch.

As Wade and his coaching staff look to develop an inexperienced squad at this level they have hit several high points this season.

The wins at home to Chorley and Skelmersdale as well as the victory at Witton Albion rank alongside the best results of the season, but Saturday’s draw should mark a progression for different reasons.

Just under a year ago Fylde made the journey to Northumberland and quite simply walked all over Spartans, romping home in an easy 5-0 win.

On Saturday, though, Spartans were determined, organised and committed, and to be disappointed to have come away with only a point should be seen as a positive.

Whether they make the play-offs or not the future seems bright and several players have come of age over the last eight months.

Patience and understanding is still required but everyone connected with the club is looking ahead to promising times.

Spartans’ man of the match was Nathan Buddle.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Cummings, Watson, Parker, Buddle, Hooks, Horner, Wade (Robinson 75), Dale, Maguire, Wearmouth (Hubbard 88). Subs not used: Purewal, Davis.

Attendance: 386.