McHugh the Spartans hero with injury time penalty save

A last-gasp penalty save from Blyth Spartans keeper Adam McHugh ensured his side claimed all three points in their Evo-Stik Premier League clash with Marine.

Matty Pattison had put the hosts ahead through a penalty of his own in the 65th minute, which had seemed enough for Blyth to claim their first home win over the Mariners in three seasons.

However, they had McHugh to thank for keeping out Daniel Mitchley’s spot-kick in added time, before Chris Bell headed off the line in the last few seconds to claim a priceless victory over the only side to beat Blyth so far this season.

Spartans got proceedings under way after an impeccably observed minute’s silence for Daniel Wilkinson, the Shaw Lane AFC player who lost his life after collapsing during their Integro Doodson Sports Cup tie against Brighouse Town with a suspected heart attack earlier in the week.

The hosts had the game’s first real chance within the first two minutes when Sean Reid was fouled 30 yards from goal. Pattison stepped up looking to repeat his Halesowen Town heroics, but could not keep his fierce free-kick on target.

The visitors had a set-piece of their own three minutes later which Alex Davies could not do anything with but hit it straight into the Blyth wall.

The Mariners midfielder was incensed with his shouts for a hand blocking his shot, but referee Graeme Hopper chose to ignore his appeal for a penalty.

In an opening spell that did not offer much for the neutral, it took another 15 minutes for the next real chance for either side, and it fell the way of the hosts.

Daniel Maguire picked the pocket of the Marine defence and had a run at goal. The striker shot under pressure but his low-struck effort trickled wide of the post.

The monotonous nature of the first half up until this point soon gave way to literal end-to-end stuff as both sides had excellent chances to take the lead.

A one-two between Ryan Hutchinson and Maguire saw the latter cross in for the defender, who pulled the trigger with a first-time volley which forced a fantastic reaction save out of Calvin Hare before Matthew Wade’s rebound effort was blocked by a defender.

Marine then raced straight up the other end and Mitchley - the match winner in the reverse fixture - tried to chip the ball in over an advancing HcHugh at the edge of the Blyth area. The ball seemed destined for the net despite Stephen Turnbull desperately trying to get back to prevent a goal, but it bounced out just wide of the goal.

Joe Mwasile looked tricky down the left-hand side at Marine and he seemed to be in a similar mood again as he intercepted a loose pass from Gavin Caines and ran into the box. He evaded the challenge of Turnbull and hit the ball across goal, but Hutchinson was there to intercept and clear the danger.

While Mwaslie was a danger on the left for the visitors, Robert Dale was proving to be just as troublesome on the wing for Blyth.

The Blyth captain glided past right-back Joshua Brizzell and into the box where his cut-back cross found its way to Reid at the edge of the area. Last month’s Port of Blyth player of the month struck the ball with real venom and looked to have broken the deadlock, but Hare raced across and saved on the line.

Marine had looked dangerous on the break all half and it was through another quick attack that they seemed destined to score. Mitchley cut inside last man Michael Liddle and had a shot, but the left-back was able to recover well enough to get a block in.

With half-time fast approaching, both sides were desperate to go in ahead, and it was Maguire and Mitchley again who went closest for their respective sides with similar efforts.

Maguire was able to take control of Dale’s knock down in the Marine area before opting to shoot on the turn. The top goalscorer was unlucky to fire straight into the ground, with the ball bouncing up straight into the grateful hands of Hare.

Mitchley was then found on the stroke of half-time by Alan Burton’s header, with Hutchinson breathing down his neck. Marine’s number nine was able to turn and get a strong strike away, which McHugh did well to keep out as the ball was moving about in the air.

With Hopper’s whistle firmly in his mouth to signal the break, there was still time for him to play advantage following a Marine foul. Maguire looked to take full advantage with a shot from tight on the left, but Hare rushed out to save at his feet.

Mwasile showed no signs of stopping in the second half and went on another jinking run three minutes after the restart. He looked to play in Mitchley after cutting inside, but a vital interception from Turnbull ensured the scores remained level.

The same two Marine players then combined for another great chance on 54 minutes.

Mwaslie danced down the line and picked out Mitchley free at the far post. Mitchley opted to take it on the volley, but got it all wrong and hit the ball high into the heavens.

If Marine had wasted that half chance, then Spartans were also guilty of failing to capitalise on a golden opportunity just after the hour mark.

Pattison was able to pick out Michael Richardson from the right and the substitute took a touch but dragged his shot wide when he should have scored.

That frustration at a lack of scoring was soon forgotten when Maguire was brought down in the box. Hopper took his time to point at the spot and, despite what seemed to be nearly all of the Marine team surrounding him to try and change his mind, he awarded the hosts a penalty.

Pattison stepped up and fired the spot-kick straight down the middle, giving a diving Hare no chance.

The former South African international then tried to turn provider for Richardson once again with a neat little touch back at the edge of the box. He fired first time, but it was always going off-target.

Mitchley then tried to show Richardson how it was done from long-range when he fired an effort past the outstretched fingertips of McHugh. However, luckily for Spartans his shot only struck the bottom of the post and bounced clear of danger.

As the game entered the last ten minutes, Maguire made a run down the right and whipped a ball in for Richardson to run onto near the penalty spot. The midfielder tried his hardest to get any sort of touch on the ball to turn it towards goal, but the ball just evaded him.

In the last of four added minutes at the end of the 90, Marine were thrown a life-line as Hopper seemingly missed a foul on Dale and opted instead to award the away side a penalty for an alleged pulling of an away shirt.

Mitchley looked to be a thorn in Blyth’s side once again when he sent his penalty to McHugh’s left, but the Spartans stopper leapt across and parried it away to safety.

By this point, Marine were throwing everything at the Spartans goal in a desperate effort to claim a share of the spoils, and looked again to have scrambled a late equaliser from the resulting corner. A header from Liam Goulding at the back post was destined to draw the Mariners, but the Bell soon tolled for the visitors as Blyth’s right-back leapt up to nod the ball off the line, mere seconds before the full-time whistle was blown.

With Buxton not in action in the league until Saturday, Spartans opened a three-point gap at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier League.

They just have the small matter of a tasty local Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round tie against FA Vase holders Morpeth Town on Saturday to prepare for now.

Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Bell, Liddle, Caines, Hutchinson, Turnbull (Parker 90+3), Pattison (Nicholson 81), Wade, Maguire, Reid (Richardson 57), Dale. Subs not used: Armstrong, Jeffries.

Attendance: 522.