Late Dale goal keeps Spartans’ play-off hopes alive

Blyth Spartans celebrate Stephen Turnbull's equalising penalty against Nantwich. Picture by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans celebrate Stephen Turnbull's equalising penalty against Nantwich. Picture by Bill Broadley
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Blyth Spartans recovered from a first half deficit against Nantwich on Saturday to retain hopes of clinching a play-off place.

A strong second half performance was capped off with captain Robbie Dale scoring a late winnerafter a Stephen Turnbull penalty had pulled the home side level.

Blyth went close early on when a ball from Robbie Dale found Arran Wearmouth on the right of the Dabbers area and the winger’s cross took a wicked deflection off the thigh of Andy White that took it over Terry Smith’s head and against the top of the crossbar.

Despite dominating possession without creating any meaningful chances, Spartans handed the visitors the lead on 27 minutes.

Centre back Danny Parker gave up possession to Harry Clayton midway inside his own half and Cooke beat Nick Thomson.

The sum total of Spartans’ comeback was a Michael Richardson volley from the edge of the box a minute before half-time.

Spartans created the first chance of the second period as Arran Wearmouth collected a loose ball midway inside the Dabbers half and after holding off the challenge of Nicky Platt he tried his luck from 20 yards. That shot took a deflection and fell kindly for Dan Maguire but his instinctive effort was smothered by Smith.

However, that was only a temporary reprieve for the visitors as a penalty from Stephen Turnbull got Spartans back on level terms.

Again the goal came from a defensive lapse as Maguire capitalised on a some day-dreaming from centre back Matt Bailey on the edge of the area. Bailey promptly tripped Maguire and referee Peart pointed to the spot. Just as he had seven days earlier, Turnbull sent a keeper the wrong way.

Despite getting the equaliser, Spartans seemed to show nerves and only a wonderful stop from Thomson prevented the visitors from retaking the lead.

In searching for a vital three points, Tom Wade sent on Ash Davis for Wearmouth and the big striker almost made an instant impact.

Alex Nicholson broke forward from right back and played Davis in on goal but again the alert goalkeeping of Smith frustrated Spartans as he smothered Davis’ flick towards goal.

It was second sub, Dan Hawkins, who finally helped put Spartans in front two minutes from time.

The former Bishop Auckland player sent over a sublime low cross to find Dale and the captain made no mistake from eight yards.

That goal got Spartans the win that they deserved, if only for their persistence and determination, two qualities that will be crucial over the coming two weeks and could decide their play-off race with Curzon Ashton.

There may have been nothing too grand about the performance but Spartans stay firmly in the play-off race as Matlock Town are the next to come to Croft Park on Tuesday evening.

Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Mullen, Parker, Bramley, Turnbull (Watson 90), Richardson (Hawkins 82), Dale, Maguire, Hooks, Wearmouth (Davis 73). Subs not used: Wade, Lynch.

Attendance: 503.