FOLLOWING their 3-3 draw with Harrogate Town on Bank Holiday Monday it was always going to be a tall order for Blyth Spartans FC to emulate such a performance in Nottinghamshire on Saturday.
Despite this being a game which Blyth manager Steve Cuggy would liked to have taken maximum points from, this 0-0 draw must still be considered a decent enough result under the circumstances.
Having arrived at Eastwood Town’s Coronation Park without strikers’ Glen Taylor and Phil Bannister – both sidelined through injuries sustained in the Harrogate clash – Spartans’ chances were further diminished when Cuggy was forced in to substituting his captain and talisman, Graeme Armstrong at half-time.
That said, after a lacklustre opening from the visitors, Spartans grew in confidence and somewhat bizarrely had their best spell in the final 20 minutes of the game – in which they had no recognised strikers on the pitch.
On official Non-League Day this wasn’t a great advert for the Blue Square North and Spartans got off to their usual sluggish start and had debutant goalkeeper David Knight to thank for keeping their first clean sheet of the season.
Knight – on loan from Blue Square North rivals Histo n– denied Eastwood’s Stevie Istead with an instinctive save with his feet on ten minutes and came to his side’s rescue again moments later when he kept out a header from Lee Morris.
The away side offered little in response with long range efforts from Armstrong, Wayne Phillips and Dan Groves failing to trouble Eastwood ‘keeper Jake Want.
Blyth did however have the ball in the net through Lee Mason but the flag had been raised long before the striker finished past Want.
The hosts continued to create the better chances and Knight again had to be on his toes to save a cross-shot from Morris.
The lively Morris then danced around two Spartans defenders before crossing for Jason Bradley who couldn’t keep his header down.
At half-time Richie Slaughter replaced Armstrong with Phillips moving further up the field to support Mason.
After failing to create any decent opportunities in the opening period Blyth began to make inroads in to the Eastwood defence.
Neal Hooks supplied an unmarked Groves in the area, who couldn’t keep his volley down from 16 yards.
Phil Cave then drove into Eastwood’s area and fired a shot across goal that Want managed to parry away from danger.
Phillips then had a shot from 25 yards which produced another save from the Eastwood goalkeeper, who took two attempts to gather the ball.
With ten minutes remaining Blyth created their best opportunity of the afternoon, when substitute Chris Emms weaved his way in to the Eastwood box before pulling the ball back for Cave, whose shot was headed off the line by Craig Armstrong.
In the dying seconds of the game Groves surged in to the Eastwood area and dragged the ball back for Slaughter – who was poised to shoot – before Want made a timely intervention to deny Blyth a dramatic late winner.
Spartans now look forward to back-to-back home games in the Blue Square North. First they will entertain Droylsden on Saturday September 10th before welcoming Boston United to Croft Park the following week.
Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Cave, Jones, Coulson, Buchanan, Forster (Vipond), Hooks, G. Armstrong (Slaughter), Mason (Emms), Phillips.