Spartans denied at the death once again

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For the second time in seven days Blyth Spartans saw three points snatched away at the death.

On Saturday an injury time equaliser from Worksop Town’s Leon Mettam stole a point for the Tigers at Croft Park.

Tom Wade’s side played with vibrancy and enthusiasm but ultimately only took a point in as one-sided a game as many are likely to see.

Winger Arran Wearmouth made his full debut for the club in place of the injured Dean Holmes and Dan Parker returned to the heart of the back four with Nathan Buddle switching to full back in place of Phil Airey.

Craig Hubbard had to make do with a place on the bench again as Wade and Colin Myers kept faith with the midfield trio of Neal Hooks, Matthew Wade and Damen Mullen after they impressed in the opening two games of the season.

The opening ten minutes gave little hint of what was to follow, although Spartans looked in control, playing some neat football without really troubling Liam Flynn in the Tigers goal.

However, the visitors’ number one was alert as a cute pass from Hooks released Mullen who saw his shot blocked.

For all their dominance, Spartans could not make it count and they were punished as the Tigers took the lead in the 18th minute.

Jack Muldoon’s diving header from Shane Clarke’s cross took a slight nick off Dan Parker to go beyond the unfortunate Conor Grant.

But Spartans hit straight back, perhaps incensed by a sense of injustice at conceding a goal and by several some of the decisions from referee Geoff Liddle.

They set siege to the visitors goal with Robbie Dale and Dan Maguire seeing shots blocked before the latter appeared to be fouled in the area by Roe with Liddle incensing the Green Army yet again by only giving a corner.

Wearmouth caused all sorts of problems for full back Alex Pursehouse, so much that the defender became the first player to receive a yellow card as a result of constant fouls on the winger.

Ten minutes before the break Spartans drew level with Dale’s first goal of the season.

Yet another foul on a Spartans player led to a free kick 22 yards from goal, and Dale stepped up to curl the ball into the far corner with several defenders and keeper Flynn unable to get a meaningful touch.

That goal saw the sides go into the break on even terms, however, the Croft Park faithful gave their young Spartans side a great ovation as they left the pitch.

It was very much a case of same again in the second half as Wade’s side took control quickly.

Wearmouth was yet again at the heart of everything positive as the former Bishop Auckland man turned Pursehouse inside out before laying the ball to Mullen who fired wide of the near post.

Just six minutes into the second half Spartans were awarded their third penalty in three games and it came as no surprise who won it.

Wearmouth was brought down after he had driven into the box only to be upended by Ellis Wall.

Joe Kendrick stepped up to crash home with Flynn getting a hand to the spot kick but not enough to keep it out.

Kendrick missed penalties home and away against the Tigers last season but made no mistake this time.

Just two minutes later Spartans nearly extended their lead as Dale capitalised on a defensive error only to flick just past the right hand upright with Flynn stranded.

As the hour mark came and went so did the chances as Wearmouth forced Flynn into a smart stop at his near post, but he would not deny the winger just a minute later as he capped a wonderful debut on 62 minutes with a clinical finish from 12 yards after holding off the almost intimate attentions of substitute Conor Higginson.

Buoyed by taking a two-goal lead, Spartans began to play some outstanding passing and moving with the front three of Wearmouth, Maguire and Dale causing all sorts of problems.

They came within a whisker of a special goal as Dale, Hooks and Maguire combined to bamboozle the Tigers back four before the later played the ball to Matthew Wade who crashed just over the bar from the edge of the box.

But there was always an uncomfortable feeling that the visitors only needed one goal to get back into the game and that came with ten minutes remaining.

A corner from the right by Roe found the head of Muldoon and the winger found the far post, his effort just evading Hooks on the line.

It was a case of game on, but it really should have been game over as Rob Nolan was released in on goal but unlike in pre-season the former North Shields striker just rolled past the far post as Croft Park prepared itself to salute his first competitive goal for the club.

There was a one-on-one chance for the visitors as Grant produced a wonderful stop from Mettam but it was the same player who stole the most unlikely point for his side in injury time.

Muldoon broke down the right wing and crashed the ball into the area where Mettam miskicked, had he connected properly Grant would have had a chance but he was deceived by the effort and the ball rolled into the net.

There will be initial disappointment from everyone at Spartans at losing two valuable points, but the young side have continued the momentum built up from the opening two fixtures, playing some outstanding football in the process.

Undoubtedly patience is required as they settle into life in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, but the early signs are promising.

Next up is a trip to Stocksbridge Park Steels on Bank Holiday Monday before Spartans welcome Matlock Town to Croft Park on Saturday.

Spartans’ man of the match: Robbie Dale.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Buddle, Parker, Purewal, Kendrick, Mullen, Hooks, Wade (Hubbard 87), Wearmouth (Nolan 70), Dale, Maguire (Mason 85) Subs not used: Airey, Cummings.

Attendance: 302.