IT will now take a minor miracle for Blyth Spartans FC to reach the play-offs after suffering a defeat at the hands of in-form Solihull Moors at Croft Park on Saturday.
Victory would have moved Blyth up to fifth in the Blue Square Bet North, but instead their opponents now occupy the last play-off position, thanks to a single goal scored by Junior English just before the break.
For the second home game running Mick Tait’s team failed to find the target in another frustrating afternoon for the Croft Park faithful.
The hosts began the game brightly and would have taken the lead on five minutes if Michael Tait had directed his header either side of the Solihull goalkeeper Jaspir Singh.
Tait did beat Singh with a header in Blyth’s next attack but the goal was ruled offside by the assistant referee.
Paul Brayson then curled a free kick just wide of the upright, and it was once again beginning to look like one of those days for the green and whites.
The next passage of play pretty much summed up Blyth’s afternoon.
A great run by Stephen Turnbull ended with a low cross into the area which was cleverly dummied by Nicky Deverdics before the ball ran agonisingly across the face of goal and was eventually cleared at the back post by Sam Adkins, with Brayson ready to pounce.
The visitors almost scored just before the half hour mark when Ryan Beswick turned sharply in the area and unleashed an effort, with only the crossbar saving Blyth from going a goal behind.
At the other end Turnbull whipped in a dangerous corner which was met by Deverdics, but the Blyth forward failed to guide his header on target.
Solihull’s Dominic Langdon was then booked for a strong challenge on Deverdics on the edge of the Blyth area, and Brayson’s strike from the resultant free kick was tipped over the crossbar by Singh.
The killer blow for Blyth came just before the half-time whistle when Solihull took the lead through an emphatic finish by English from 16 yards after his team-mate Matt Smith had won an initial challenge in the area.
Solihull shuffled the pack at half-time with Adkins being replaced by Ayres and Langdon moving to left back in an attempt to thwart the dangerous Robbie Dale.
After falling behind just before the break it was clearly a deflated Blyth that emerged from the dressing room and they failed to make any real impression on the second period as Solihull looked content to simply defend their slender lead.
The best chance of the half fell to Blyth’s player of the month for February, Neal Hooks.
The midfielder was able to beat Singh with his effort but English was on hand to clear from the goal mouth in another frustrating moment for the home side.
To add to Blyth’s dissatisfaction at how the game was going, the referee booked Deverdics for a high foot when it was actually Solihull defender Dominic Langdon who had his boot raised.
Man of the match Chris Swailes headed over from a Turnbull corner five minutes from time before the contest basically fizzled out.
On a more positive note, Blyth Spartans are now top of the Blue Square Bet North fair play league.
They went four matches without picking up a single booking in February and this has signalled a meteoric rise from where they once lay in the disciplinary standings, as the club’s commercial manager Ian Evans explained: “Eight years ago we were bottom of the fair play league and were hit with a hefty fine of £5,000.
“We were so cash-strapped at the time that we had to pay the cost of the fine on a monthly direct debit.
“We were then issued with a £10,000 suspended fine that was fortunately never implemented.
“To now move up to the top of the fair play league and still maintain a very healthy position in the Blue Square Bet North is something we should be proud of.”
Blyth Spartans: Lowson, Groves, Cave, Tait (Gray), Swailes, White, Hooks, Turnbull, Brayson, Deverdics, Dale.