Spartans back into top five with win over Frickley

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Blyth Spartans played the numbers game as they completed the league double over Frickley Athletic with a comfortable win at a chilly Croft Park on Tuesday night.

There was a first goal for the club for new striker Sonny Andrews, followed by Damen Mullen making it two goals in a week and that all added up to three points for Tom Wade’s side.

That rounded off a rewarding night for Spartans as they moved back into the top five of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League ahead of Saturday’s FA Trophy tie with Ramsbottom United.

Despite Saturday’s disappointing home defeat to Kings Lynn Town, Wade kept the faith with the majority of the side who had under-performed against the Linnets.

The only change saw Joe Kendrick coming into the midfield at the expense of former Hibs man Lewis Horner.

It was Kendrick’s first start since the FA Cup exit at the hands of AFC Fylde in mid-September.

On a bitterly cold night at Croft Park it was the visitors who were almost caught cold in the fourth minute as referee Shaun Hudson was forced to wave away a Spartans penalty appeal.

Some intricate link up play between Dan Maguire and Craig Hubbard saw the latter dance past Blues keeper Thomas Woodhead who seemed to bring the in-form Spartans midfielder down. But their protests were in vain as Hudson remained unmoved and a goal kick was awarded.

Spartans dominated possession during the opening period and finally turned that into a goal just before the quarter hour mark.

An error from Athletic defender Luke Jeffs allowed Robbie Dale to take possession on the right hand side and he cut inside on his left foot and crashed an effort goalwards. Woodhead could only parry and Andrews showed the predatory instinct that has fared him so well in the Northern League with a cool finish from eight yards.

But for all of Spartans’ possession, they were unable to build on that lead.

In fact they were fortunate not to see themselves back on even terms midway through the first half as Jeffs curled a wonderful 20-yard free kick off the crossbar.

With the clock ticking towards half-time neither side created a chance of note until five minutes before the interval. Some alert defending from Ian Watson saw the former Whitley Bay full back deny Jake Picton by clearing the Blues centre back’s header off the line. That ensured Spartans went into half-time with their lead intact.

They started the second half with a determination to not only maintain that lead but to build upon it.

A quick throw-in from Dale found Kendrick in some space just outside the visitors area, but the former Mansfield Town man saw his low effort well saved by Woodhead.

The Blues keeper made a similar stop from Mullen minutes later, but Spartans carried on putting the Athletic keeper under pressure.

Just before the hour mark Nathan Buddle almost grabbed his second goal in a Spartans shirt as he pounced on Matthew Wade’s pull back but saw his ten-yard shot cleared off the line.

Two minutes later the charmed life that the visitors goal has been living came to an end.

Maguire found a yard of space on the edge of the box and his low right footed effort was parried by Woodhead and Mullen was first to the loose ball and after taking a touch to steady himself he coolly fired into the far corner, a complete contrast to his wonder strike against Kings Lynn at the weekend but no less important.

If Wade and his side had been expecting an onslaught from the visitors they were let down. That’s not to say Karl Rose’s side didn’t threaten following Mullen’s goal.

Striker Oliver Fearon really should have done better after he was played in on goal by an intricate pass from Matthew Bloor. Under pressure from the advancing Michal Misiewicz, Fearon could not make the most of the opportunity and got his legs in a tangle as his effort dribbled well wide of his near post.

Spartans went in search of a killer third goal and could not have come much closer with just under ten minutes left.

Not for the first time on the night, Dale mesmerised Hinsley before hammering a vicious cross to the back post where substitute Horner failed to make a meaningful connection for what would have been his first goal for the club.

With the Croft Park faithful preparing to celebrate three points there was one final flourish. Misiewicz made a smart stop at his near post to deny Fearon from ten yards and that third goal still evaded Spartans as Maguire crashed over when clean through on goal.

However, as referee Hudson blew his final whistle, Spartans could look back on a job well done.

Solid in defence, flexible in midfield and dangerous across the front line, it was a much improved performance that put the disappointment of the Kings Lynn defeat firmly behind them.

There could hardly be a more ideal preparation for Wade and his side ahead of Saturday’s FA Trophy tie with Ramsbottom United, as they go looking for a win that would be lucky number seven at Croft Park this season.

Spartans’ man of the match: Robbie Dale.

Blyth Spartans: Misiweicz, Mullen, Purewal, Buddle, Watson, Wade (Horner 70), Kendrick (Airey 88), Hubbard, Dale, Andrews (Cummings 75), Maguire. Subs not used: Parker, Grant.

Attendance: 329.