Nolan opens Spartans account with injury time equaliser

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Blyth Spartans striker Rob Nolan jumped off the sick bed to make sure that Tom Wade’s side preserved their unbeaten record with an injury time equaliser against Stocksbridge Park Steels on Bank Holiday Monday.

The former North Shields front man had spent most of Sunday night vomiting but it was Steels who were feeling sick after his poacher’s finish ensured Spartans gained a much deserved point.

And the point was the very least they deserved after dominating the second half in particular.

There were two changes to the Spartans line-up following Saturday’s thrilling 3-3 home draw with Worksop Town.

Lee Mason and Craig Hubbard replaced Dan Maguire (knee) and Matthew Wade (hip) with the young duo taking their place on the bench.

It was Steels who started the game on top and striker Nathan Joynes had the first chance of the game.

The former Matlock Town man span Arjun Purewal on the edge of the Spartans box and curled a 16-yard effort wide of Conor Grant’s far post.

Robbie Dale had Spartans’ first chance on 13 minutes as he saw his low effort from just inside the box deflected just wide of the post by Will Senior.

From the resulting corner Purewal flicked a header at goal that just evaded two on-rushing Spartans players and dropped agonisingly wide.

On 20 minutes Dale had a golden chance after a neat through ball from Arron Wearmouth released the front man and he forced a good stop out of Ben Scott after shrugging off the attentions of Liam Royles.

The heat was taking effect on both sides and the pace of the game dipped notably as the clock ticked towards the half hour mark.

A Mason corner caused havoc in the home defender and Danny Parker flicked an effort against the woodwork before the danger was cleared.

Just after the half hour mark the home side took the lead and there was more than a hint of good fortune about the goal.

Winger Chris Bettney crossed from the right and the flight of the ball deceived Grant and dropped just inside the far post.

As seems normal this season, Spartans were awarded a penalty five minutes before the interval after Dale had been clipped by Senior inside the area.

It was their fourth spot kick in as many games, but unlike in the previous three, Joe Kendrick could not make it count. The Irishman sent Scott the wrong way but his effort crashed off the crossbar.

Blyth had more than a decent shout for a second spot kick two minutes later after Wearmouth had danced past Royles before seemingly being pulled back by the full back, but referee Mark Dwyer was unmoved amongst enthusiastic appeals.

Possibly annoyed at a sense of injustice, Spartans switched off on the stroke of half-time and were grateful to Grant who produced a good stop to deny Chris White after the striker had broken the offside trap.

After the break the visitors took complete control and created a good chance just ten minutes in.

Dale broke down the right and played the ball back to Damen Mullen on the edge of the area. The midfielder took one touch before curling a left foot effort that was headed just over the bar by Steels defender Senior.

From the corner Nathan Buddle got above everyone only to see his header cleared off the line by Nicholas Swirad.

Wade introduced Maguire with 25 minutes left and he was soon at the heart of the action forcing Scott into a brave stop after playing a one-two with Dale.

Maguire turned provider soon after as he released Neal Hooks with a clever chipped pass, but the midfielder’s volley was parried away from danger by Scott.

Spartans made two more substitutes as they went in search of a deserved point with Wade and Nolan replacing Craig Hubbard and Wearmouth.

With time slipping away they pused further forward with the home side camped deep inside their own half.

Something had to give and that was exactly what happened in the first of three injury time minutes.

A long clearance found Dale and his flick dropped nicely ahead of Maguire. The pacey forward showed his bravery to jump ahead of the oncoming Scott who had rushed from his goal line and the loose ball fell kindly for Nolan who picked the perfect time to net his first competitive Spartans goal with a cool finish from a narrow angle.

That goal meant Spartans go into Saturday’s home clash with Matlock Town looking to finish off the first month of the season unbeaten and will do so in front of another noisy Croft Park crowd.

The young side is still in its infancy but there were more signs of their battling qualities at the Look Local Stadium, something that will stand them in good stead ahead of tougher tasks that lie in wait over the coming months.

Spartans’ man of the match: Arjun Purewal.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Buddle, Parker, Purewal, Kendrick, Mullen, Hooks, Hubbard (Wade 70 mins), Wearmouth (Nolan 78 mins), Dale, Mason (Maguire 65 mins) Subs not used: Airey, Cummings.

Attendance: 191.