Professional performance as Spartans edge out Halesowen

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Blyth Spartans still have an outside chance of a play-off spot after a win over Halesowen Town, coupled with some favourable results elsewhere.

On Saturday they gave a professional performance against a dogged, determined and well-organised Yeltz side, who frustrated the vast majority inside Croft Park for large parts of the game.

That was until Stephen Turnbull’s 61st minute penalty, a goal that brought up Blyth’s century of competitive goals for the campaign.

Michael Richardson doubled his side’s lead with just under quarter of an hour remaining and all seemed fairly straightforward for Spartans, until veteran striker Iysden Christie curled a sublime 20-yard free kick home with a minute remaining and set the nerves jangling for the Green Army.

They should not have bothered, though, as Spartans comfortable saw out three minutes of injury time to get the win they deserved.

Wade made one change from Tuesday’s draw with play-off rivals Ashton United with Jarrett Rivers returning in place of Arran Wearmouth on the right hand side of an attacking trio.

The first half was something bordering on a non-event as both sides struggled to get going, with uncharacteristic errors were the norm.

That said, Spartans should have taken the lead in the tenth minute as Rivers and Richardson combined but the latter wasted the opportunity by firing timidly when clean through on goal and Sam Pearson saved easily.

If anyone seemed likely to break the slumber it would be the in-form Dan Maguire. The Spartans striker did test Pearson midway through the half but the Yeltz number one was up to the take as he produced an excellent reaction save to block a rising angled drive.

The second half had to improve and Spartans were first to show their intent within a minute. Spartans’ top scorer Maguire collected a loose ball midway inside the Yeltz half and burst forward, easing his way past Joe Hull and Curtis Tilt before firing across goal and just past Pearson’s far post.

It was a spark that Spartans needed and they dictated play, finally getting their reward just after the hour mark.

A neat passage of play involving Maguire, Richardson and Robbie Dale saw the latter find some space inside the area but delayed his shot sufficiently for Yeltz captain Hull to block. The loose ball fell to Maguire and he was illegally brought to the ground by Tilt. A spot kick was awarded and Stephen Turnbull sent Pearson the wrong way to put his side in front.

The game was all Spartans and Richardson came within an inch of a spectacular second with 20 minutes remaining. The former Newcastle United midfielder collected a pass 25 yards from goal and curled a dipping right foot shot on to the top of the visitors crossbar.

Six minutes later Richardson would not be denied. Again the trio of Richardson, Maguire and Dale caused problems and when Dale casually but accurately played Richardson in on goal and he calmly rolled the ball past the advancing Pearson.

There was to be a late scare for Spartans when a foul by substitute Matthew Wade on Danny Bragoli saw referee Newhouse award a free kick around 20 yards out. The official also showed Wade a yellow card. Former Coventry City striker Iyesden Christie stepped up and curled a deadly accurate effort past Nick Thomson, although the Spartans keeper got a hand to it.

Spartans then kept possession and ran down the clock and effectively killed off the game.

Blyth Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Watson, Parker, Bramley, Turnbull (Wade 84), Richardson (Hawkins 77), Dale, Maguire, Hooks, Rivers (Wearmouth 65). Subs not used: Lynch, Davis.

Attendance: 575.