Spartans’ position justified by display

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BLYTH Spartans played like a side that deserve to be propping up the Blue Square Bet North table in an utterly woeful display against Worcester City at St George’s Lane on Saturday.

Recent performances – if not results – have suggested that Tommy Cassidy’s side are better than their rock-bottom status, but after this latest showing their placing seems completely justified.

Spartans appear destined for life in the Evo-Stik Northern premier division next season and many more days like Saturday could see relegation arrive sooner rather than later as they find themselves four points adrift of second bottom Eastwood Town following the weekend’s round of fixtures.

It was a depleted Spartans squad which made the long journey to Worcester on Saturday, with key players Wayne Phillips, Dan Groves and Jordon Mellish all missing from the starting 11 after picking up injuries in Tuesday night’s encounter 1-1 draw with Stalybridge Celtic.

Despite Cassidy’s options being limited – with just four substitutes named on the bench – it was no excuse for the dross which was served up by the visitors, with the only consolation on full-time being that Spartans did not lose by a greater margin.

The hosts scored twice within the space of 11 minutes either side of the break through Matt Birley and Michael Taylor before Blyth’s Joe Kendrick halved the deficit with a sublime free kick ten minutes from time.

Kendrick’s first goal for the club meant the 2-1 score far from told the whole story of a game that would have been over as a contest long before if Worcester had made more of their total dominance.

The warning signs were there for Blyth as early as the sixth minute as Mike Symons was afforded too much time in the area in being allowed to turn and blaze over from eight yards out.

Spartans then had the first of very few chances when a low cross from Kendrick was struck first time by Glen Taylor but whistled just wide of the upright.

Worcester had the ball in the net on 26 minutes after Gregg Mills supplied Taylor in the area – with the striker tapping in from close range only to see the assistant raise his flag for offside.

A 25-yard free kick from Tom Thorley was then brilliantly saved by Robert Birdsall as Worcester continued to pile on the pressure.

The hosts took a deserved lead on 40 minutes when a goal-bound shot from Birley took a deflection off Wayne Buchanan, which diverted the ball past Birdsall and into the corner of the net.

Just before the interval Spartans had a chance to equalise through Taylor when he rose in the area – after a free kick from Kendrick – but was unable direct his header on target.

After scoring his side’s first goal, Birley was heavily involved in their second six minutes after the break when he split the Blyth defence with a through ball which Taylor tucked past Birdsall.

Contrary to an expected and much needed response from the visitors, the hosts went in search of more goals and in doing so hit the crossbar twice in quick succession through Thorley and Taylor.

Spartans had their first shot on target in the 70th minute when substitutes Lee Mason and Phil Bannister combined, with Mason forcing Matt Sargeant into a decent save from close range.

Mason then had another chance when he brought the ball down well on the edge of the area before dragging his shot wide of the mark.

Spartans were awarded a free kick on 80 minutes after Graeme Armstrong had been hauled down 25 yards from goal.

Kendrick stepped up to curl his shot into the Sargeant’s top corner, giving the Worcester goalkeeper no chance.

The handful of Spartans fans behind the goal were starting to believe that the long journey to Worcester could yet be a worthwhile one.

And a minute after Kendrick’s wonder strike they almost witnessed a totally undeserved and unexpected equaliser when Armstrong was thwarted by Sargeant in the area as he attempted to lift the ball over the Worcester goalkeeper.

Spartans now make another long trip on Saturday – this time to Wales – to face Colwyn Bay before a home game against Histon the following Tuesday night.

Blyth Spartans: Birdsall, Slaughter, Kendrick, Anzevui (Hodgson), Buchanan, Jones, Utterson (Mason), Hooks, Armstrong, Taylor (Bannister), Cave.

Man of the match: Kendrick

Attendance: 643.