Heavy home defeat for Spartans

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BLYTH Spartans’ season of inconsistency continued as they failed to build on their 4-1 win over Ashton United in their last home league fixture with a poor performance, going down to a five-goal defeat against AFC Fylde.

A nightmare opening saw Spartans two down inside five minutes and four behind at half-time as defensive frailties, lack of concentration and some lethal finishing combined to ensure the game was out of sight by the time the whistle went for the interval.

Robbie Dale was back into the Spartans line-up after missing the midweek Doodson Sports Cup exit at the hands of North Ferriby United.

Stephen Turnbull partnered Neal Hooks in the engine room of midfield and Shaun Utterson replaced Phil Airey at full back.

Jordan Mellish’s return to the club was confirmed early in the day and the former Hartlepool United man took his place on the bench.

Just as with the Ashton United win, Spartans were a goal down within the first two minutes.

Fylde winger Dorney broke down the left and his cross into the area found the unmarked Sean Cooke who volleyed home with Craig Pickering unable to get a strong enough hand on the shot to prevent it going in.

A poor start became a nightmare start two minutes later as the impressive James Dean played Jimmy McCarthey in on goal and the striker made no mistake, blasting across Pickering and into the net.

If there was one bright spot for Spartans it was the ever dangerous Daniel Maguire, and the former Seaton Delaval striker had their first chance after 15 minutes.

He was played in by Neal Hooks who cleverly chipped over the back four to find Maguire, who struck a low volley that forced Ben Hinchcliffe into a smart stop at his near post.

Spartans could not build up any momentum and were being played off the park with the slicker and more accurate passing from the visitors causing them constant problems.

On the 20-minute mark, McCarthey got his second goal as he cut inside from the left wing and was given too much time to pick out Pickering’s far corner with a delightful curling effort.

One accusation thrown at Spartans this season has been that they have given away too many easy goals, and they were guilty of that once again five minutes later as a long ball caused a mix up between Wayne Buchanan and Pickering.

Their hesitancy allowed Dean to get in-between them and roll the ball into the net and put his side four goals to the good in the process.

As the interval approached, Spartans tried to force something positive and it was no shock that Maguire was at the heart of it.

Firstly he was denied a superb goal as his overhead kick was tipped over by Hinchcliffe and then two minutes before the break the visiting custodian saved at the feet of Maguire after Lee Mason broke into the area only to be denied by a last ditch tackle. The loose ball ran to Maguire but his effort was blocked by Hinchcliffe to ensure his clean sheet was preserved until the break at least.

Fylde came within a whisker of extending their lead within two minutes of the restart as a deep cross to the far post found Durney and his header crashed off the outside of Pickering’s near post and rebounded to safety.

Hooks nearly got one back for Spartans as he volleyed just wide of the far post after Maguire had chested a Slaughter cross back to him, and substitute Airey did similar from another Maguire lay off.

The away side were cruising through the game and were well on top and only the occasional Spartans attack caused them any problems.

Unsurprisingly, Maguire came closest as he latched on to a Dale cross but his 12-yard shot was deflected wide.

A four-goal lead became five just after the 70-minute mark as a spot of pinball in the Spartans area saw a loose ball find its way to Cooke at the far post and he struck a low effort into the far corner for his second of the day.

With the clock ticking towards the 90-minute mark, Fylde took their foot off the gas and Spartans had a couple of chances.

Maguire went close to a deserved goal as he beat two men on the edge of the box and fired just past the near post.

The referee blew for full-time and put Spartans out of their misery on a day when they were as much to blame for a heavy defeat as the undoubted quality of the opposition was.

The Green Army amongst the highest Croft Park attendance since the first week of December certainly deserved better and will be looking once again for a reaction as Spartans travel to Kendal on Tuesday night looking for a first away win in the league since mid September.

Blyth Spartans: Pickering, Utterson, Mullen, Turnbull, Buchanan, Slaughter, Mason (Airey 53), Hooks (Hubbard 76), Jennings (Mellish 33), Maguire, Dale Subs not used: Berj, Hodgson.

Attendance: 357.