Hawkins opens Spartans account in uninspiring draw at Matlock

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For the second season in a row Blyth Spartans came away from Matlock Town’s Autoworld Arena with a battling draw.

But in truth it was a game that never quite sparked into life despite threatening to on several occasions.

Dan Hawkins’ first competitive goal for the club had put Spartans ahead in the first half but the points were shared thanks to Danny Holland’s header 11 minutes into the second half.

The game took some time to get going, although it has to be said Spartans settled the quicker with wingers Robbie Dale and Arran Wearmouth looking in menacing form.

It was the latter who played a part in the first chance on 18 minutes as Wearmouth released Alex Nicholson and the former Newcastle United Academy man pulled the ball back for Ryan Hutchinson but his ten-yard drive was bravely blocked by Gladiators defender David Haggerty.

Four minutes later Dale almost conjured up the most magical of goals as he danced his way down the left and skipped past two defenders. As the winger cut in from the byline he was closed down but managed to get a low shot off that was well saved by Town keeper Jon Kennedy.

The first chance for the hosts finally came on 26 minutes as a cross from the left was flicked on by Leon Osborne and only alert goalkeeping from Peter Jeffries prevented Holland from tapping home from close range.

An untidy first half was about to come to an end when an all too rare piece of class put Spartans ahead.

Dan Maguire was given space in front of the back four after hard work by Hutchinson in midfield, and that allowed him to release Hawkins in on goal and the former Bishop Auckland man never looked like missing as he clipped past the advancing Kennedy to send his side into half-time in the lead.

With the words of manager Mark Atkins ringing in their ears the hosts came out looking fired up.

Whatever the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder said paid off as 11 minutes into the second period they were on level terms.

A cross from Stokes saw Holland get up above Nathan Buddle to loop a header past Jeffries.

The pressure continued and after Jeffries had denied Holland a second, Spartans had to rely on the alert defending of Alex Nicholson as he cleared Josh Meade’s low drive off the line.

Minutes later a last ditch block from Ian Watson denied Stokes a certain goal as the winger attempted a low shot from the angle.

There were some bright moments for Spartans but the quality of the final ball was not quite there as the likes of Dale, Maguire and substitute Rivers were denied one-on-one chances by the quality of service.

However, that improved with seven minutes left as the final chance of the game fell to Tom Wade’s men.

A wonderful one-two between Hawkins and Rivers allowed the latter to use his electric pace to get in behind the back four, but the winger’s low drive was saved well by Kennedy and that meant the points were shared.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, Parker, Buddle, Watson, Hooks, Hutchinson (Cummings 83), Hawkins, Dale, Maguire, Wearmouth (Rivers 67). Subs not used: Robinson, Bell, Sayer.

Attendance: 263.