Spartans miss two penalties but score third to take points

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THREE was the magic number for Blyth Spartans on Saturday as they ended a four-match run of defeats with a 3-2 win over Worksop Town.

But far from being three and easy, they made it hard work for themselves by missing a whole host of chances, including two from the penalty spot.

However, it was Craig Hubbard who made it third time lucky as he converted from the spot after unsuccessful attempts from Joe Kendrick and Robbie Dale.

The only three that will matter to Spartans will be the points Tom Wade’s men won that saw them gain revenge for the Hallowe’en horror show when the Tigers smashed eight past a poor Spartans.

In his first team selection following his permanent appointment as Blyth manager, Wade chose to put Robbie Dale back into the starting line-up after he missed Easter Monday’s North Ferriby United defeat with concussion.

The winger replaced Jordon Mellish with Damen Mullen moving to left back and Joe Kendrick partnering skipper Wayne Buchanan at centre back.

The first quarter of an hour was all about Spartans as they began the game with a confidence and swagger that belied their current run of form.

A Kendrick shot from 15 yards nearly gave them the lead on two minutes after the ball fell to the in-form defender from a Lee Mason corner.

Mason himself was at the heart of the action a minute later as his cross struck the hand of Tigers centre back Stimpson but the referee declined vociferous appeals from Spartans.

It was Mason causing havoc as he beat Stuart Ludlam and swung a cross in to the near post that found Dan Maguire who slid the ball narrowly wide of the near post.

The final chance of a hectic opening period came as Hubbard released Ryan McGorrigan on the right hand side of the box and the on-loan Gateshead man volleyed just wide.

The Tigers finally got into the game on 20 minutes as Conor Grant closed down Leon Mettam as the striker struck low at goal from the angle.

Spartans ramped up the pressure again following that chance and Dale took over Mason’s role as tormentor in chief.

The winger took advantage of a slip by Tigers right back Ryan Clarke, cutting in from the wing he curled an effort just over the bar from just inside the area.

Finding himself in the same position five minutes later, Dale chose to feed Mason whose effort was remarkably similar to Dale’s as he curled over the bar.

With ten minutes to the break Spartans had a golden chance to take the lead and it came with their first spot kick of the game.

The impressive Neal Hooks swung an excellent cross-field ball to Mason, whose delightful first touch took his inside the box and past Ludlam who could only bring the Spartans winger down.

But it was a bit of history repeating as Kendrick saw his penalty saved by veteran keeper Paul Bastock, just as the Tigers keeper had done in the game between the two sides in October.

Bastock denied Spartans again just before half-time as he produced a superb double save to deny Mason and ensure the deadlock remained unbroken at the interval.

It was again Spartans on top in the early moments of the second half and again it was Dale who was the danger man.

Maguire had seen his effort parried by Bastock but the ball ran to Dale just inside the area and his first time effort went just past the far post.

That miss was punished two minutes later by the Tigers as a long ball from Bastock was flicked on by giant striker Tom Denton. That flick released Mettam in on goal and he made no mistake, volleying home from 15 yards into the far corner of the net.

Spartans spot kick troubles struck again with 65 minutes on the clock after Hubbard had been brought down in the box by Clarke.

It was a surprising decision by the referee and seemed to anger the away dugout, but they were let off the hook as Dale smashed the penalty over the bar.

That meant it was the first time Spartans had missed two penalties in a match since March 2000 in the Unibond League Cup semi-final at Trafford.

Dale made amends for that miss by pulling his side level with a wonderful 20-yard free kick into the bottom left hand corner of the visitors net, and in the process fired up the Green Army inside Croft Park.

McGorrigan was replaced up front with Phil Airey and the front man was at the heart of the action with five minutes left on the clock.

His wonderful first touch inside the box took him past Stimpson and the Tigers man could do nothing else but bring him down and the referee remarkably awarded a third spot kick of the game.

Hubbard stepped up to the mark and the former West Auckland midfielder calmly rolled home his third spot kick of the season.

The perpetual motion and determination of Maguire led to the match clinching third for Spartans as the young striker fought off five challenges in the visitors area and the ball found its way to Mason who crashed home from just inside the area to seal all three points.

As this is Blyth Spartans, nothing was simple and they set hearts racing again inside Croft Park and some defensive hesitancy saw Tigers winger Burberry volley home with a minute of four minutes injury time left.

However, the referee blew the whistle for full-time and Wade’s side got a much needed win as they look to end their season with a flourish.

Not really three and easy but a much improved team performance from Spartans saw them bag the points as they go into a tricky lucky double header of away fixtures against Hednesford Town and Stafford Rangers.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Slaughter, Mullen, Kendrick, Buchanan, Mason, McGorrigan (Airey 79), Hubbard, Maguire (Turnbull 90), Hooks, Dale. Subs not used: Mellish, Cook, Berj.

Attendance: 315.