Spartans gathering admirers not points

Blyth scorer Max Harrop. Picture by Bill Broadley.
Blyth scorer Max Harrop. Picture by Bill Broadley.
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ONCE again Blyth Spartans won more admirers than points with their performance on Saturday against Corby Town as the hosts were applauded off the field on the final whistle despite another home defeat in the Blue Square Bet North.

A goal against the run of play on the stroke of half-time from Corby’s Mark Jones was cancelled out by a second half wonder strike by Max Harrop before Sam Mullarkey struck seven minutes from time to give the visitors all three points.

The latest defeat still leaves Spartans manager Tommy Cassidy looking for his first victory since being appointed in December.

The Steelmen have lived up to their name on their travels this season with just one league defeat away from home, and it was easy to see why as they limited Spartans to long range efforts, despite seeing little of the ball themselves in the opening 20 minutes.

Wayne Phillips saw his 30-yard strike fly just over the crossbar before Harrop tried his luck from similar range but still could not trouble Corby goalkeeper Chris Mackenzie.

At the other end, Paul Malone headed over from close range after a corner from the visitors had found him unmarked in the area.

With Spartans attacking in numbers, Shaun Utterson pulled the ball back for Harrop whose goal bound shot from ten yards was blocked by Stephen Towers.

Blyth’s best chance of the opening period fell to Glen Taylor who received the ball from Harrop in the area before unleashing a low shot which was saved at his near post by Mackenzie.

Harrop was at the heart of everything and almost broke the deadlock with a ferocious 20-yard volley that whistled just wide of the upright.

Spartans had looked the more likely of the two sides to take a lead into the break, but instead it was Corby who got their noses in front on 45 minutes when Jones met a low cross from Jordon Smith with a cushioned volley which found the bottom corner of Robert Birdsall’s net.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Spartans supporters – who had watched their side dictate proceedings for much of the half.

After the interval Blyth had three chances in as many minutes to equalise but failed on each occasion.

Firstly, Utterson played the ball in to Taylor who took a touch in the area but could only fire straight at Mackenzie from six yards.

Utterson then had a chance himself when Phillips crossed to the back post but the former Monkseaton Academy star could not direct his volley on target when at full stretch.

The Corby goal was leading a charmed life, especially when Neal Hooks fed Graeme Armstrong who saw his effort saved at the second attempt on the goal-line by Mackenzie.

It was going to take something special for Spartans to get back on level terms, and Harrop produced that moment of genius on 59 minutes with a memorable first goal for the club.

The 18-year-old has impressed since his loan switch from Bury Town and this was further proof of his quality as he dispossessed James Ozmen before firing an unstoppable left-foot strike into the top corner.

The Croft Park faithful could sense a first league victory since September but instead it was the visitors who threatened to get the next goal as Malone saw his header hit the upright.

An otherwise underworked Birdsall then produced a magnificent point blank save to deny Smith, but it was only to be a matter of time before Corby found the winner.

And with Spartans squandering numerous chances earlier on in the contest there was a sense of inevitability about the way in which the visitors snatched victory.

In-keeping with this season, it was also likely that Spartans would play some part in their own downfall, and so it proved as Mullarkey was afforded far too much time and space in the area to control a through ball before finishing past Birdsall.

A jubilant away bench was contrasted by deflation on the terraces which summed up the mood on the pitch as Spartans failed to produce another meaningful chance in the remaining seven minutes.

Blyth Spartans: Birdsall, Groves (Slaughter), Cave, Hooks, Buchanan, Mellish, Harrop, Utterson, Armstrong (Mole), Taylor, Phillips.

Attendance: 305.