Spartans begin season with win over Grantham

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Two moments of class and opportunism ensured that Blyth Spartans began their Evo-Stik Northern Premier League season with a win against a physical Grantham Town side.

In a game that was at times scrappy, an early contender from Dan Maguire and a calm finish from Paul Robinson gave Tom Wade’s side the ideal start to the new campaign.

There were competitive debuts for Peter Jeffries, Alex Nicholson and Ben Sayer, whilst fellow new boys Dan Hawkins, Jarrett Rivers and Chris Bell had to make do with a place on the bench.

With Danny Parker suspended and Neal Hooks unavailable, starting places were handed to Matthew Wade and Ryan Hutchinson, the latter playing in an unfamiliar centre back position alongside Nathan Buddle.

The early stages was all about Spartans and the first chance came their way on six minutes.

A Robinson free kick from the right hand touchline was headed goalwards by Hutchinson but the former Celtic youngster’s effort dropped just wide of Jake Turner’s far post.

On the quarter hour mark there was a long stoppage in play as referee Paul Thompson pulled up with groin strain. Fortunately Northumberland FA referee Tony Young was in attendance and stepped in for assistant Stephen Bulmar, who took over in the middle from Thompson.

Once play restarted Spartans got the goal their early pressure deserved, and what a goal it was.

A long punt from Jeffries was flicked on by Robbie Dale that allowed Maguire to fire a vicious left footed strike from 20 yards across Turner and into the far corner.

The game turned scrappy after that moment of quality and both Maguire and Batchelor were booked for petty trips.

It took until a minute before the break for the visitors to make a real chance as Jordan Hempenstall latched on to a weak Dale pass. However, the former Coalville Town man could only lash a long range effort wide of Jeffries’ far post.

The home side were on top early in the second half and an inch perfect cross field pass from Hutchinson released Dale down the left. He drove into the area but his low strike was saved well at the near post by Turner.

Hempenstall went close minutes later with an instinctive volley from 25 yards that almost caught out Jeffries but dropped just wide of the goal.

On the hour mark Maguire had a golden chance to double both his own tally and Spartans’ lead when he was played in on goal, but a moment of hesitancy gave Turner the chance to block his shot.

However, that miss meant little just under ten minutes later as Spartans did double their lead.

A ball into the area found Arran Wearmouth who ignored the attentions of Scott Mathews to roll the ball to the advancing Robinson and the former Whitley Bay midfielder’s momentum was like clockwork as he easily jinked past Phil Watt before lashing an effort into the far corner from ten yards, although it did take a deflection but the shot seemed to be heading in regardless.

As full time came ever closer Dale and Maguire both went close to setting the seal on the game, but it was the visitors who would get the next goal and set off the nerves around Croft Park.

Striker Gregg Smith found time and space in the area to play a ball to right back Sam Puricoe who made no mistake with a low drive that Jeffries got a hand to but could not prevent going over the line.

Four minutes of injury time were played out in front on an ever boisterous Green Army who were incensed that Watt was only shown a yellow card for a strong challenge on Spartans substitute Rivers.

However, Spartans easily saw out the added time and sealed a hard earned three points.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, Buddle, Hutchinson, Watson, Wade, Sayer (Hawkins 66), Robinson, Dale, Wearmouth (Rivers 70), Maguire. Subs not used: Mullen, Bell, Cummings.

Attendance: 439.