Spartans beaten by single goal from FC United of Manchester

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A second half Matthew Wolfenden goal condemned Blyth Spartans to only their second defeat of 2014 and ensured that FC United of Manchester stayed within striking distance of Chorley at the top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League table.

A scrappy game saw neither side able to play the brand of football they prefer with both keepers rarely stretched throughout the game.

After Tuesday’s draw at Matlock Town there were changes in the Spartans line-up, with Arjun Purewal and Neal Hooks replacing Joe Kendrick and Matthew Wade.

There was also a first appearance on the bench for former Team Northumbria keeper Niall Harrison after the stopper was signed on deadline day.

The opening stages were all about the Rebels and in particular top scorer Tom Greaves.

On five minutes he volleyed wide after latching on to a flick from strike partner Mike Norton, then four minutes later Greaves cut in from the left and struck a low effort that was comfortably saved by Conor Grant at his near post.

There were penalty shouts for both sides around the 20-minute mark, but both were waved away by the official Kevin Mulraine.

Firstly Robbie Dale tangled with Lee Neville in the visitors area but the muted protests were denied, and moments later Nathan Buddle collided with Mike Norton at the other end with Mulraine showing no interest in awarding a spot kick.

Spartans finally came to life on 27 minutes as Paul Robinson came to the fore.

The former Whitley Bay man struck a 20-yard piledriver that was deflected just over by Rebels captain Stott, and from the resulting corner Robinson had another chance. After his initial cross was passed back to him the midfielder smashed a left foot effort from out wide that was narrowly deflected just past David Carnell’s far post.

The final chance of the half saw Robinson involved again as he crossed to the far post looking for Spartans top scorer Dan Maguire, but he was eased away from the cross and the ball fell to Arran Wearmouth who volleyed over from around ten yards.

The second half took some time to get going and the first chance was the game winning goal on 63 minutes.

A long ball forward was flicked on by Greaves to release Wolfenden in on goal, and the midfielder stayed calm and rolled the ball past an advancing Grant to send the strong contingent of travelling Rebels supporters wild.

Spartans upped the pressure and a Robinson corner from the right was floated to the edge of the area. That found Hooks who flicked the ball into the area to find the head of Purewal, and he made a strong contact with the ball but his header dropped just over the bar with Rebels keeper Carnell rooted to the spot.

With neither side really able to create any chances it was an increasingly desperate Spartans who had the final one three minutes into injury time.

A Damen Mullen free kick just inside the FC United half was sent towards the penalty spot and found the head of Danny Parker who flicked the ball goalwards but Carnell made a comfortable stop low down to his right to ensure the points went back to Manchester.

Spartans now move on to the Northumberland Senior Cup semi-final replay on Tuesday night with Ashington making to short trip to Croft Park.

The tie must be finished on the night and the winners will face Newcastle United Under-21s at St James’ Park in the final.

Spartans’ man of the match was Damen Mullen.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Purewal, Watson, Parker, Buddle, Hooks, Mullen, Robinson (Bonket 75), Dale, Maguire, Wearmouth (Kendrick 67). Subs not used: Wade, Harrison, Horner.

Attendance: 932.