Spartans lift the cup after 20-year wait

Blyth Spartans with the Northumberland Senior Cup. Picture by Keith Robertson
Blyth Spartans with the Northumberland Senior Cup. Picture by Keith Robertson
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Blyth Spartans 2 Morpeth Town 0

Northumberland Senior Cup Final

Is there a better way to round of one of the most remarkable seasons in Blyth Spartans’ recent history than with silverware? Not just any silverware but silverware that the club has waited over two decades for in the shape of the Northumberland Senior Cup.

Over half of Spartans starting line-up in their 2-0 win over Morpeth Town at St James’s Park were only toddlers the last time the club lifted the trophy, but last night, with a reasonably comfortable win over the Highway Men, they further cemented their place in Spartans folklore after a wonderful season.

The win came courtesy of a goal in each half. Michael Richardson netting a second-minute goal and Dan Maguire expertly killing off the brave Northern League outfit with his 31st goal of a season where the little frontman has further enhanced his reputation as a real fan favourite at Croft Park.

Spartans were given the perfect start with that goal from Richardson, as the former Newcastle United man netted for the second consecutive final. This time, unlike last year, it was in the green and white and when he latched on to an inch-perfect through ball from Neal Hooks he never looked like missing, as he casually rolled the ball past Town keeper Karl Dryden.

The first controversial moment of the game came in the eighth minute as Spartans could and should have had a penalty. Dan Hawkins fired a through ball to release Dan Maguire and the striker seemed to be hauled down by Chris Jewels but despite a flag from the linesman on the Milburn Stand side, referee Brown waved away any protests from Spartans.

The pressure was unrelenting and Spartans could have had a second just after the ten minute mark as Richardson missed another golden chance as he raced on to a Robbie Dale ball but delayed his shot for a moment too long and allowed Dryden the chance to close him down and block the shot.

There was a big let-off for Spartans just after the 20-minute mark as Keith Graydon almost got the Highwaymen back on level terms. A free kick was awarded to the Northern League outfit 25 yards from goal and the former Spennymoor Town midfielder smashed a low drive against Nick Thomson’s right hand upright.

Spartans had another credible penalty shout five minutes before the break and again it was Maguire who was at the heart of the action. Robbie Dale worked a ball into the Town area and Maguire seemed to be brought down by Hall but again the referee was unmoved by vociferous Spartans protests.

The woodwork was to deny Tom Wade’s side twice in the closing stages of the first half. Firstly a Damen Mullen drive from the edge of the area was tipped onto the near post by Dryden and moments later the former Ashington custodian was at it again as he was thankful for the same upright as he parried another effort, this time by Maguire on to the same post. That was enough to prevent Spartans extending their lead further as the curtain came down on the first half.

It was Morpeth Town who created the first chance of the second half as Fry played Sean Taylor in on goal but the alert goalkeeping of Thomson allowed the Spartans keeper to rush off his line and block the winger’s close range effort.

Spartans hit back and came within a whisker of doubling their lead thanks to captain Robbie Dale. The long-serving winger broke down the left and after taking advantage of the overlapping Damen Mullen he cut inside and curled an effort from 20 yards that took a deflection off David Hiftle and tantalisingly wide of Dryden’s far post.

The woodwork denied Spartans for a third time just before the hour mark as Dale carved open the Highway Nen defence and released Maguire into the left hand side of the area. The striker calmly picked out Neal Hooks and his looping 12-yard effort was tipped on to the bar by Dryden.

Michael Richardson was the first to the rebound and he rolled back to Dale but he was the latest Spartan to be denied by the Highwaymen keeper, although this was a more simple effort with Dale firing into his chest.

Spartans did eventually double their lead and it was the 31st goal of a fantastic season that did it. The prolific frontman made the most of a poor backpass by Jewels and rounded Dryden to finally break the resistance of the Northern League side.

That goal sealed the game for Spartans and it was a night of complete satisfaction for a number of key figures at the club. For captain Robbie Dale lifting the trophy will have been an extra sweet moment after being a beaten finalist on five separate occasions.

For Tom Wade there was the satisfaction of becoming the first Spartans manager since his boyhood hero Brian Slane to take the club to the third round of the FA Cup and win the Senior Cup in the same season.

And most importantly for the Green Army, Spartans’ loyal band of supporters, there was the satisfaction of seeing their side lift silverware as a reward for their unwavering support this season.

Now, just as it was on Saturday even after play-off disappointment, there is a platform for Wade and his assistant Lee Picton to build on. This talented young squad has developed immeasurably this season and with some smart additions there is a real chance of further progression next season.

As it was said on Saturday, this shouldn’t be the beginning of the end, but the end of a wonderful beginning.

Spartans: Thomson, Hawkins, Nicholson, Mullen, Parker, Turnbull, Hooks (Lynch 76), Richardson, Dale (Wearmouth 89), Maguire Subs not used: Rivers, Jeffries Cummings Goals: Richardson 2, Maguire 86

Morpeth Town: Dryden, Hiftle, Jewels, Hall, Henderson, Sayer, Graydon, Fry, Taggert, Chilton (Anderson 73), Taylor Subs not used: Forster, Grieve, Harrison

Attendance: 1,973