Fighting Spartans side salvage point

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THEY may still be propping up the Blue Square Bet North table, but Blyth Spartans demonstrated no shortage of fighting spirit as they twice came from behind to salvage a draw against Hinckley United on Saturday.

In an end-to-end game at Croft Park, Chris Emms opened the scoring for the hosts on 16 minutes but the visitors soon replied through Charlie Raglan and then went ahead just before the break – with Danny Newton getting his first of two goals.

Spartans’ captain Graeme Armstrong levelled with a header, only for Newton to put his side in front once more.

With time running out, substitute Glen Taylor rescued a point for his side when he struck home a rebound to prompt a huge sigh of relief around Croft Park.

The defending from both sides left a lot to be desired, which resulted in chances galore.

Jamie Mole had the first of these when he cut inside, only to fire his effort just over the crossbar.

At the other end, Andrew Gooding should have really put his side ahead, but was denied by David Knight from close range after a neat passing move from The Knitters.

Spartans made the breakthrough when Wayne Phillips picked the ball up on the halfway line and surged forward to the edge of the Hinckley area before supplying Emms, who took a touch inside and finished in off the near post.

The visitors were level within seven minutes, though, as a free kick into the Blyth area rebounded off Armstrong and fell kindly for Raglan, who poked the ball past Knight from close range.

Blyth went on to dominate the remainder of the half and Steve Cuggy would be left wondering how it wasn’t his side who were taking an advantage into the interval.

Firstly, Richie Slaughter tested Denham Hinds from 30 yards with a powerful drive and then Emms had a goal-bound effort headed away by Richard Lavery.

There were further chances for Phillips, Jamie Mole and Armstrong but by far the best opportunity fell to Neal Hooks on 45 minutes, as he found himself through on goal but lifted his effort high over the crossbar with just Hinds to beat. Blyth were then punished for their inability to find the net, as Newton turned in the Spartans area and finished high past Knight.

Spartans had Knight to thank for not falling further behind just five minutes after the break as Andre Gray raced clear, with the goalkeeper blocking his effort when one-on-one.

The hosts then almost drew level when a great ball from the on-loan Rob Briggs found Mole through the centre, who initially took the ball wide before cutting back and unleashing a shot which crashed against Hinds’ upright – with the goalkeeper beaten.

A brilliant double save from Hinds then denied both Phillips and Greg Pearson, as Spartans piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser.

It duly arrived on 55 minutes, when Hooks delivered a corner from the left and Armstrong glanced his header inside the far post.

With the wind in their sails, a first league win in eight games for Spartans looked on the cards and appeared even more likely when Mole raced through on goal after a pass from Armstrong – with the striker looking to take it around Hinds only for the keeper to make an excellent recovery to deny him.

The Croft Park faithful could sense victory, but Newton once again had other ideas as he received a cross from Gray and turned sharply to score his second of the afternoon and silence the home support.

With Hinckley defending in numbers and time running out, Spartans appeared to be heading for their third defeat at home in the space of seven days until Hinds parried a shot from Hooks into the path of substitute Taylor – who slotted the ball home from close range.

Spartans are at home again on Tuesday night when they welcome Newcastle Benfield in the Northumberland Senior Cup before the visit of Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday in the FA Trophy.

Blyth Spartans: Knight, Slaughter, Cave, Briggs (Forster), Groves, Pearson, Emms (Taylor), Hooks, Armstrong, Mole, Phillips. Man of the match: Emms.