Renewed hope for Spartans’ survival

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BLYTH Spartans moved off the bottom of the Blue Square Bet North on Saturday with a point in Warwickshire against ten-man Nuneaton Town.

Spartans were pegged back from a winning position on two occasions by the promotion contenders – who played the last 32 minutes without right back James Armson after he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Glen Taylor, pictured, put the visitors ahead on 31 minutes but his effort was cancelled out five minutes later by Boro’s Gareth Dean.

The second half took on a similar pattern with Graeme Armstrong restoring Spartans’ lead only for Simon Forsdick to level for the hosts – who by this point had been reduced to ten men.

Despite not seeing their side make the numerical advantage count in the latter stages of the game, the Blyth fans at the Triton Showers Community Arena made the trip back home with smiles on their faces after witnessing another determined display from Tommy Cassidy’s side.

And the last two performances on the road against Boston United and Nuneaton Town respectively have given Spartans supporters renewed hope of survival after a terrible first half of the season in which their side looked certainties for the drop.

Confusion in the Nuneaton area led to the first chance of the game when goalkeeper Danny Alcock could only punch as far as debutant Shaun Utterson whose header was cleared from the goalmouth by Forsdick.

At the other end, Armson flashed a shot just wide of the post after turning sharply in the area.

In an end-to-end opening it was then the away side’s turn to threaten the score sheet when Wayne Phillips played a diagonal ball into Armstrong who couldn’t keep his shot down from 20 yards.

Andy Brown’s acrobatic effort went wide of Matt Hunter’s far post before the young Spartans goalkeeper was forced into a decent save by Forsdick.

Heroics at the other end from Alcock denied Taylor with a point blank header after Neal Hooks had curled in an inviting free kick.

In a carbon copy incident – at the opposite end – a minute later, Hunter was on hand to deny Brown with an emphatic stop from close range.

The game continued to ebb and flow and it was once again Spartans turn to attack – this time through Max Harrop who saw his deflected shot cleared off the goal line by Armson.

Hooks was then the architect of his side’s opener. After the midfielder had eluded two challenges he picked out Taylor on the edge of the Nuneaton area, who took a touch before blasting into the roof of the net with his left foot.

Spartans, however, saw their hard work go to waste five minutes later when they fell asleep at a Nuneaton set piece to allow Gary Mills all the time in the world to centre for Dean, who swept home the equaliser from close range.

Taylor had one more chance before the break, but this time dragged his effort wide from the edge of the area.

On a freezing afternoon in Warwickshire it was the hosts who were caught cold after half-time when Armstrong reacted quickest to a free kick from Harrop which crashed back off the upright and gave the Spartans Captain the opportunity to prod home from eight yards and put his side back into the lead on 51 minutes.

It could have got even better for Spartans in their next attack when a Hooks free kick was flicked to the back post by Armstrong to Utterson, who could only hit the crossbar with his header from two yards out – in what was almost a dream start to his Spartans career.

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts on 58 minutes when Armson was given his marching orders by referee Darren England after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Phillips.

Nuneaton were back on level terms just after the hour mark, however, when a tame half volley from Fosrdick went under the legs of the unfortunate Hunter – who otherwise had an impressive afternoon between the sticks.

A tiring Boro were under the cosh for the remainder of the contest but Spartans couldn’t find the goal which would have given them their first away victory of the season in the league.

Two substitutes combined to fashion a chance on 70 minutes when Richie Slaughter crossed for Jamie Mole, but the former Hearts striker failed to direct his header on target.

In the dying seconds of the game, Mole rounded an onrushing Alcock in a wide position and cut the ball back for Taylor who couldn’t execute the finish from the edge of the area, with the Nuneaton goalkeeper in no man’s land.

After picking up two points in as many weeks on their travels Spartans now have two home fixtures to look forward to, starting with the visit of Corby Town on Saturday and followed by the arrival of Altrincham to Croft Park next Tuesday.

Attendance 768.

Blyth Spartans: Hunter, Groves, Cave, Hooks, Buchanan, Mellish, Utterson (Slaughter), Harrop (Hodgson), Armstrong (Mole), Taylor, Phillips.