FOR Blyth Spartans only time will tell if Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Solihull Moors can be considered as one point gained or two dropped in their quest for survival.
After fellow Blue Square Bet North strugglers Vauxhall Motors and Hinckley United picked up wins over the weekend it would currently appear to be the latter, but Spartans still have both sides to play in their eight-game run-in and could yet pull off what many are dubbing as the ‘Great Escape’.
Ten points out of a possible 12 in the four games prior to Saturday’s long trip to Birmingham had given Spartans fans renewed hope of avoiding the drop.
And things were looking even better for Tommy Cassidy’s side after just 20 minutes of play at Damson Park, as Joe Kendrick scored his fourth goal in a green and white shirt since making his loan move from Mansfield Town in February.
But the lead only lasted eight minutes as Dominic Langdon levelled for the hosts – who looked to have clinched victory 12 minutes from time with a goal from Michael Blackwood, before a late equaliser from substitute Glen Taylor salvaged what could prove to be a precious point for Spartans.
Following an early scare for the visitors in which Justin Marsden blazed over from close range, they took complete control of proceedings with the two recent signings, Andy Ferrell and Robert Dale at the heart of things.
A free kick from Dale was headed wide by Graeme Armstrong before another Dale delivery was cleared over his own crossbar by Solihull defender Stuart Pierpoint.
Dale then squandered a chance of his own when he headed a cross from Kendrick well wide of the mark.
At the other end, the home side almost took the lead against the run of play when Blackwood crossed for Junior English – who hit the upright with his header.
It was, however, Spartans who deservedly went in front when Kendrick curled an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner from 25 yards, to the delight of the travelling fans behind the goal.
The imperious Ferrell then dispossessed Karl Broadhurst in a dangerous position before driving into the Solihull area and unleashing a left footed shot which flashed wide of the far post.
Blyth’s excellent start counted for nothing as Langdon rose highest to meet a corner from Marsden to power home a header to level the scores at 1-1.
For all their dominance Spartans should have taken an advantage into the break and had the perfect opportunity to do so through Armstrong on 40 minutes – who somehow missed the target with his header from six yards out after a cross from Wayne Phillips.
After the interval Armstrong had the chance to make amends and was alert to a flick on from Wayne Buchanan but couldn’t guide his header on target from a tight angle.
Phillips then had a shot from the edge of the area which was well held by Jasbir Singh before a volley from Ferrell deflected wide for a corner off Langdon.
The tide turned slightly with 20 minutes remaining as the hosts pressed for a winner.
English saw his half volley sail over the crossbar before Blackwood flashed a dangerous shot just wide of David Knight’s far post.
0n 78 minutes Solihull took advantage of some sloppy play from Blyth as Marsden crossed for an unmarked Blackwood, who powered his header in off Knight’s crossbar – leaving the goalkeeper with no chance whatsoever.
This Spartans side don’t give up without a fight and an inevitable onslaught from the visitors ensued.
A free kick from dead ball specialist Kendrick looked destined for the bottom corner before Singh tipped the ball onto the post.
With Solihull defending deep into their own half, Glen Taylor raced on to a lofted ball from Kendrick before scoring with a cool finish past Singh at his near post on 87 minutes.
Spartans weren’t finished there and a back post header from Jordon Mellish almost won the game for the visitors in the second minute of added-on-time, only for his effort to be cleared from the goalmouth in some desperate defending from the hosts.
Following the weekend’s round of fixtures Spartans are now 12 points from safety and remain second bottom of the Blue Square Bet North ahead of their must-win home game against Gloucester City at Croft Park on Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Kendrick, Hodgson, Buchanan, Mellish, Utterson (Mason), Ferrell, Armstrong (Taylor), Dale (Bannister), Phillips.