Poor second half costs Spartans

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A SECOND half comeback from Northern Premier League title favourites Hednesford Town ensured the they became the first side since Lincoln United to take three points from Spartans in a Northern Premier League game at Croft Park.

Following Tuesday’s morale boosting 3-1 win over Stocksbridge Park Steels, hopes were high that Spartans would be able to build on that win and make a positive start to their Bank Holiday Weekend double.

But the Pitmen had other ideas and goals from Harvey and McPherson ensured that Phil Airey’s first goal in a Spartans shirt early in the game was not rewarded with any points.

Spartans boss Tommy Cassidy was forced into one change with Tom Berj unable to recover from a foot injury sustained in the win over Steels and was replaced by Sam Hodgson.

Things started well for Cassidy’s side as they were ahead within three minutes.

Some tenacious work in midfield from Lee Mason saw him play former Newcastle United striker Airey in on goal and the Amble born front man make no mistake, rolling the ball past the visitors keeper Crane for his first Spartans goal.

Ten minutes in and Airey nearly doubled his tally and Spartans’ lead as he combined again with Mason, but the striker’s effort went over the bar.

It took 15 minutes for the visitors to create their first chance as Woolfe latched on to a sloppy clearance and lashed a ball narrowly over Conor Grant’s bar.

Boosted by a 100 per cent record to their season, the Pitmen started to find their way and midway through the half had several chances with Harvey, Disney and McPherson going close, but all missed the chances to get their side on level terms.

Ten minutes from the break and it was Airey at it again causing havoc in the visitors defence, but this time he turned supplier to lay the ball off to Shaun Vipond who struck a well hit effort goalwards from the edge of the box.

His shot was heading narrowly wide but unfortunately for Spartans, Craig Farrell was unable to make a meaningful connection and Vipond’s shot went behind for a goal kick.

The last chance of the half fell to Hednesford and it was the dangerous looking Osbourne who broke away from midfield and curled a wonderful effort from 20 yards just past the far post.

Clearly words were said in the visitors changing room and they came out looking much improved and Spartans failed to match the intensity and eagerness in the Hednesford side.

As early as the 48th minute the teams could have been level when the Pitmen broke down the Spartans right hand side.

Strike partnership Rey and Harvey combined as the former had a shot deflected by Barbados international Harvey, but Grant made an instinctive stop from close range.

Spartans had their warning but failed to heed it and were very fortunate to not have their lead taken off them when two minutes later Osbourne hit the post and McPherson put the rebound over the bar.

Spartans’ first chance of the second period came when Robbie Dale beat three opposition defenders and his low effort was deflected behind for a corner that eventually came to nothing.

Just before the hour, Spartans’ sloppiness cost them their lead as they failed to clear a corner that fell to Pitmen captain McPherson who scuffed his shot from the edge of the box. However, the ball fell kindly to Harvey who made no mistake from eight yards out.

On 67 minutes the visitors deservedly took the lead and it was the impressive McPherson on target as again Spartans were punished for their own failings.

A cross was not cleared well enough and McPherson curled a well controlled effort into the net from 20 yards out.

Spartans nearly hit back straight away as Farrell played an inch perfect pass into Dale, but the visitors keeper blocked his shot from close in.

A rare quiet period followed as the Pitmen dominated possession but without creating any chances, and it was not until ten minutes from time when Spartans threatened an equaliser when Farrell curled a shot just past the post from 25 yards.

However, the last ten minutes were all about the away side, and Rey could have extended their lead when Spartans gave a ball away in midfield and the Town striker fired just wide from the edge of the box.

However, in reality Spartans never really looked like getting back on level terms and taking a point that on the balance of play over the 90 minutes may well have been slightly undeserved.

So on to Bank Holiday Monday and a trip down to Whitby Town for Spartans now as they go looking to give Tommy Cassidy a win on his return to the Turnbull Ground.

Spartans sponsors’ man of the match: Wayne Buchanan.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick, Vipond, Buchanan, Mellish, Mason, Hodgson, Dale, Farrell, Airey Subs: King, Blandford, Hunter, Turnbull, Davis.

Attendance: 325.