SLOPPY mistakes by Blyth Spartans cost them points against promotion challengers Hednesford Town on Tuesday night.
Goals from Neil Harvey, Kris Taylor and Michael Lennon ensured Spartans failed to capitalise on Saturday’s home win over Worksop Town.
It also showed that Tom Wade’s side have many barriers to overcome as they look to challenge for at least a play off place next season.
Wade made three changes from the win over Worksop with Jordon Mellish, Stephen Turnbull and Mark Cook replacing Damen Mullen, Craig Hubbard and Conor Grant. Mullen and Hubbard were unavailable due to work commitments as was Phil Airey and Wade took the opportunity to have another look at Cook as he weighs up his goalkeeping options ahead of his first season in permanent charge of the club.
The home side were quickest out of the blocks and had the lead within five minutes.
A long ball forward found Bermudan striker Neil Harvey, who turned Spartans skipper Wayne Buchanan and chipped Cook from the edge of the box.
It was an impudent finish from Harvey although he did benefit from some slack defending as well.
Harvey should have doubled his own tally and his side’s lead just five minutes later as he headed an Elliott Durrell free kick wide from ten yards out.
The pair combined again on the quarter of an hour mark as the home side continued to dominate but newly crowned Evo-Stik Northern Premier League player of the year Durrell could only curl past Cook’s far post from Harvey’s lay off.
Slowly but surely Spartans got into the game and had two efforts from long range in quick succession.
Firstly Robbie Dale cut in from the left and fired just past the near post from twenty five yards. That was quickly followed by a Ryan McGorrigan effort from similar range that flew past Dan Crane’s far post.
The hosts hit back straight away with a long distance effort of their own as Durrell struck a half volley from fully thirty yards but Cook was able to watch it sail harmlessly over the bar.
With ten minutes remaining of the first half the lively Dan Maguire broke down the left hand channel and fed in Ryan McGorrigan but the on loan striker saw his low drive saved at the near post by Crane.
He was to have the last chance of the half seeing his thirty yard chip go just over the bar after Crane had headed clear to deny Neal Hooks one on one.
That miss meant that the home side went in a goal to the good.
Spartans started the second half well and did in fact have the ball in the net within two minutes.
A Robbie Dale goalbound shot was controlled by Maguire who finished well from ten yards but was denied by an offside flag. Seven minutes into the second half Town doubled their lead although there was more than a hint of fortune about it. Jordon Mellish brought down Durrell twenty yards from goal, a foul that the former Hartlepool United defender was shown a yellow card for.
From the free kick winger Kris Taylor struck a low effort that rebounded off the Spartans wall wrongfooting Cook who could only watch the ball dribble over the line.
That two goal lead became three on the hour mark as Jamey Osborne crashed a thirty yard free kick at goal.
Cook got across to the shot but could only parry it straight to Michael Lennon and the Pitman striker made no mistake from the edge of the six yard box.
Moments later Durrell went close again flashing a volley just over the bar from twenty yards out.
Just as with the first half Spartans took their time to get into the game and once they did they should have got a goal back.
The impressive Richie Slaughter broke down the right and chipped a ball through to McGorrigan who was one on one with the advancing Crane. McGorrigan tried an early lob of the keeper but got too much on it and the ball cleared the bar by a distance.
As Spartans pressed looking for what would have been merely a consolation they looked vulnerable on the break and newly arrived strikers Sean O’Connor and Kyle Patteson both looked dangerous but it was Wade’s side who had the final chance of the game.
Dale broke down the left side of the box and easily went past Pitmen skipper Darren Campion before sending a cross in to the edge of the six yard box.
That found Maguire whose first touch took him away from goal but he spun on the ball and fired a shot goalwards, deflecting off John Disney and dribbling past the near post.
As the referee blew for full time he brought down the curtain on a difficult night for Spartans and one they will look upon with some regret having given away some sloppy goals once again.
They do however have the chance to make amends as they travel to the Midlands again to face Stafford Rangers on Saturday.