Spartans battle back from two goals down to earn point

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A spirited second half fight back from Blyth Spartans ensured they overcame a two-goal deficit at the break and took a point from Nantwich Town.

Second half goals from Arjun Purewal and Dan Maguire meant that Tom Wade’s side remained in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League play-off zone after Oliver Devenney and an Arron Burns penalty had given the Dabbers the half-time lead.

Wade had to contend with the loss of experienced midfield duo Neal Hooks and Craig Hubbard following their red cards in the win at Witton Albion two weeks ago.

There was a new addition on the team sheet with striker Ash Davis starting his second spell at the club on the bench following his move from Whitley Bay.

Wade did hand a home debut to former Hibernian midfielder Lewis Horner and Canadian under-23 international goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz.

The first action saw the visitors take the lead in the seventh minute.

Midfielder Devenney broke away from the centre circle and took full advantage of Blyth’s failure to close him down by unleashing a low strike from 20 yards past Misiewicz and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

The first meaningful effort from Spartans came two minutes later as Horner crossed from the left but Maguire could only send an acrobatic volley just past the far post.

A lack of communication in midfield saw the Dabbers handed the chance which doubled their lead.

A mix-up between Horner and Matthew Wade saw former Spartans loanee Max Harrop to release Arron Burns in on goal. He rounded Misiewicz who promptly brought the former Ashton United striker down. Burns stepped up to take the spot kick and slotted it just beyond Misiewicz and into the bottom left hand corner.

Just after the half hour mark Burns was nearly at it again as he got past Nathan Buddle but his ambitious chip from the edge of the box only found the top of the Spartans net.

Minutes later a Phil Airey ball into the box was collected by Dabbers keeper Terry Smith who landed outside his area, but the referee unexpectedly waved play on, incensing the Croft Park faithful.

The official and his assistant in front of the Port of Blyth stand further wound up the Green Army on the stroke of half-time after a coming together between Burns and Spartans left back Lancaster.

With Burns expecting a free kick he put two hands on the ball to place the free kick, unaware that it had not been awarded. But he was allowed to play on before being fouled by Buddle.

Whatever was said in the Spartans dressing room at the interval had an instant impact.

Just five minutes into the second period a wonderful passing move almost saw Spartans back in the game.

Wade and substitute Davis combined on the left to find Horner in midfield. He was given time to pick a pass and released Maguire into the area. Despite pressure from his marker the diminutive forward struck a rising effort from the angle that clipped the Dabbers crossbar and went over.

Just five minutes later Spartans had better luck and got back in the game.

Damen Mullen struck a vicious free kick from 20 yards that Smith could only parry. Purewal pounced on the loose ball and grabbed his first goal for the club in the process with a cool finish from eight yards.

Quite the day for the Purewal family given that Arjun’s brother Amar was also on the scoresheet for Darlington 1883 in their FA Trophy win at Ossett Albion.

From that moment on it was all Spartans and an equaliser seemed to be a matter of when not if.

Only desperate but brave blocks from Dabbers defenders Earl Davis and Danny Caldecott denied Spartans with Mullen and Maguire going close.

But they could not deny the home side any longer and on 66 minutes Maguire got the goal his hard work deserved.

An intelligent pass from Robbie Dale found the striker 20 yards out and he took one touch before curling a wonderful effort goalwards that clipped the inside of the left post and nestled in the net to get Spartans on level terms and crank up the decibels inside Croft Park.

But despite Spartans pressing inside the visitors half, chances were surprisingly few and far between.

With ten minutes on the clock, Mullen dragged a shot just past the near post, and more solid defending from the Dabbers frustrated Spartans.

The visitors could have even snatched a win with two minutes remaining but substitute Clayton fired wide from 12 yards.

The final chance came in the fourth and final minute of injury team and fell to Davis.

He almost marked the first game of his second spell at Croft Park with a winner but could not make sufficient contact to a cute flicked pass from Maguire and Smith saved easily.

For Wade and Spartans there will be a mixture of frustration and pride.

Two goals were given away in the first period that could have easily been prevented, but to their credit they drew upon their seemingly vast reserves of energy and bravery to get back in the game and almost snatched a win that they would have probably just about deserved.

They do, however, remain far ahead of schedule in terms of their development as a squad and in the cold light of day earning a point against an established Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side in Nantwich Town should instil some belief that they can go from strength to strength throughout the season.

Spartans’ man of the match: Arjun Purewal.

Blyth Spartans: Misiweicz, Airey, Purewal, Buddle, Lancaster (Holmes 82), Mullen, Horner, Wade (Davis 45), Wearmouth (Watson 70), Dale, Maguire Subs not used: Parker, Kendrick.

Attendance: 381.