THREE times Blyth Spartans have faced North Ferriby United this season, three times they have pushed the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League leaders all the way, but three times the Villagers have punished Spartans and won all meetings between the teams.
And Easter Monday’s encounter at Croft Park was the cruelest of those three defeats with Spartans captain Wayne Buchanan deflecting a cross into his own net with only a minute of injury remaining to give the visitors a 1-0 win.
Blyth boss Tom Wade rang the changes with Conor Grant returning between the sticks in place of Mark Cook and Jordon Mellish coming back in to partner Buchanan at the heart of the back four.
Neal Hooks replaced Stephen Turnbull in the centre of midfield with the former Hartlepool United man taking his place on the bench.
A slow start to the game saw it burst into life on ten minutes as Ryan Kendall was played in one-on-one with Grant, but the Spartans keeper produced a smart stop to smother the United frontman’s effort.
The visitors came even closer two minutes later as captain Paul Foot struck the base of Grant’s far post with a well hit shot from the angle.
Spartans were struggling to get a foothold in the game but they were looking strong and organised with Mellish keeping the ever dangerous Anthony Wilson quiet.
Kendall was sent through on goal again on 25 minutes, but once again the impressive Grant was equal to his efforts to prevent United taking the lead.
Spartans had to wait until just after the half hour mark to p[ut pressure on the visitors goal.
Richie Slaughter overlapped Lee Mason and sent a cross into the box that Damen Mullen just failed to get any meaningful connection on and the ball was cleared.
On the stroke of half-time, Spartans had a good chance as Hubbard found McGorrigan 20 yards out and the Gateshead loanee’s effort was deflected narrowly wide, meaning the sides went into the break deadlocked.
Spartans made an impressive start to the second half and it was McGorrigan at the heart of the chances.
He pulled out wide to the left and fizzed a cross into the near post that saw Dan Maguire get a toe to the ball. His goalbound shot deflected off Anderson and dribbled wide of the near post with Adam Nicklin helpless in the visitors goal having already committed to the shot.
Slowly but surely the league leaders found their way into the game but found themselves up against a determined Spartans side who were repelling everything thrown at them.
With the clock ticking into the last ten minutes, both managers showed their hands by making substitutions in key positions.
Wade brought on Phil Airey for the tiring McGorrigan and United introduced experienced front man Gary Bradshaw into a three pronged frontline alongside Wilson and Kendall.
It would be two of those three who linked up for a golden chance as Bradshaw fed Wilson in the box but his shot was again saved by Grant, who seemed to be set for a hard earned clean sheet.
But United had other ideas and following a disputed corner which had been given on the back of Spartans appeals for a push on Mellish, United took the lead with a minute of three added on remaining.
The corner was cleared out to the left and found substitute Youhill who volleyed a cross to the penalty spot that struck Buchanan and flew into the bottom left hand corner of Grant’s net, much to the dismay of the vast majority inside Croft Park.
It was a performance improved from Spartans’ last two defeats at Ashton United and Ilkeston, but just as with last Saturday’s trip to FC United of Manchester, they matched a top side only to leave empty handed.
Next up are Worksop Town at Croft Park this coming Saturday as Spartans look to avenge the heavy defeat inflicted by the Tigers back in October.
Spartans’ man of the match: Jordon Mellish.
Blyth Spartans: Grant, Slaughter, Mellish, Kendrick, Buchanan, Mason, McGorrigan (Airey 75), Hubbard (Turnbull 71), Maguire, Hooks, Mullen (Stanger 82) Subs not used: Berj, Cook.