Farrell strikes late as Blyth Spartans beat Stocksbridge

Blyth Spartans' Craig Farrell. Photo by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans' Craig Farrell. Photo by Bill Broadley

A LAST gasp Craig Farrell goal ensured that Spartans won a highly entertaining game at Stocksbridge on Tuesday night and completed the league double over the Yorkshire-based outfit.

It also means that Tommy Cassidy’s side have scored three goals in their last three games and played on the club’s followers nerves throughout all three fixtures.

But it is moments like Farrell’s winner that makes football what it is.

Neal Hooks slotted straight in for his comeback game with the club after receiving clearance from the FA to play.

He took his place in a midfield three with Shaun Vipond and Sam Hodgson, with Farrell operating as a lone front man.

A scrappy start to the game was highly out of sync with the opening goal, which was a real touch of class from the in-form Robbie Dale.

Just after the quarter hour mark Dale collected a long ball and cut inside his man, he then unleashed a lovely curling effort into the far corner leaving home keeper Billard clutching at fresh air.

On 22 minutes Spartans had a chance to extend their lead when Joe Kendrick sent a 25-yard free kick narrowly wide of the near post.

A slight change of formation saw Spartans put Dale alongside Farrell and switch to a 4-4-2.

The home side pressed well but without ever looking like seriously troubling Conor Grant in the Spartans goal.

Blyth had two more chances towards the end of the first half with Sam Hodgson firing over from ten yards after being played in by Farrell, and Farrell himself taking a pass from Kendrick and forcing Billard into a smart save low down to his right hand side.

A relatively quiet first half gave way to a ferocious start to the second period and the home side equalised within five minutes of the restart.

A long ball forward found the ever-dangerous Hogan, who cut inside Joe Kendrick and crashed a low effort past Grant.

A change from Spartans not long after saw Hodgson replaced by Ash Davis and the former Whitby striker’s pace started to cause the home side problems.

On the hour mark Spartans came within a whisker of taking the lead when some link up play between Davis and Farrell saw the latter play in Lee Mason, but his low effort was tipped on to the post and out for a corner that came to nothing.

On 65 minutes the home side had the lead against the run of play when Kendrick brought down Hogan and Steels’ skipper Bowden-Lovell made no mistake from the spot.

However, from then on it was all about Spartans.

They hit back within five minutes and it was hitman Farrell with his first of the game, and again it was a wonderfully crafted move.

Dale floated an inch perfect ball to the far post that found Lee Mason and his knock down found Farrell who finished clinically from eight yards.

There was really only one side going to win the game and as the clock ticked down Spartans scored one of their goals of the season.

It was not a long range effort or a spectacular volley but a goal crafted from outstanding movement and accurate passing.

A Shaun Utterson break forward saw the full back collect a pass from Vipond and rolled the ball to an unmarked Hooks who played an unstoppable ball into Farrell, and if there’s one thing we know about the former Carlisle United man it is that he will not miss many from close range, and he certainly did not miss this one, sending the Spartans faithful into raptures and sealing another three points for Tommy Cassidy’s side.

Spartans Man of the Match: Craig Farrell

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick, Vipond, Buchanan, Jones, Mason, Hodgson, Dale, Farrell, Hooks. Subs: Turnbull, Mellish, Hunter, Berj, Davis.

Attendance: 167.

On Saturday Spartans are at home to Garforth in the FA Cup first round qualifying. Kick-off is 3pm.