Spartans toil in sun

AT a sun drenched Croft Park somebody should have reminded the Blyth Spartans FC players they are not on their holidays just yet as Gloucester City took full advantage of a lacklustre display from the hosts.

Spartans could only name three substitutes out of a possible five for this Blue Square Bet North fixture, and the end of the season can surely not arrive quickly enough for manager Mick Tait as injuries take their toll on an already wafer thin squad.

Light relief, however, will come in the form of a two-week break as Blyth don’t play their next game until Easter Saturday, when they travel to Lincolnshire to face Boston United.

Unavailable for selection were Neal Hooks, who failed to recover from an ankle injury in time, and Liam O’Mahoney, who is suffering from a sickness bug.

Alan White picked up an injury in the first half and was replaced by Chris Swailes during the interval, by which point Blyth were already trailing to strikes from Darren Mullings and Darren Eulands – from the penalty spot.

Not many teams have scored fewer goals than Gloucester this season, but the toothless tigers found their opponents to be easy prey, and sensed blood from the first whistle as they took the game to Blyth.

Despite a sustained period of pressure from the visitors the first real chance came at the other end as Paul Brayson pounced on a loose ball only to fire his effort wide when one-on-one with Kev Sawyer.

The away side then took a deserved lead on 20 minutes when after a neat passing move, Tom Webb teed up Mullings on the edge of the area and he drilled his shot low past Dan Lowson.

If the Blyth fans thought this would shake their team into life then they were sadly mistaken as Gloucester doubled their advantage 16 minutes after breaking the deadlock.

Sam Malsom’s cross bounced up in the area and hit White on the arm, leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot.

Eulands stepped up and sent Lowson the wrong way.

Blyth should have halved the deficit just before the break but John Alexander delayed his shot and Sawyer smothered the ball at the feet of the striker.

The hosts continued to look shaky after the interval and only the woodwork denied Mullings a second after some poor defending as Blyth failed to clear their lines despite several opportunities.

Blyth then began to show glimpses of their true potential, starting with an excellent ball by Stephen Turnbull which was met by an exquisite volley from Brayson, and only Sawyer knows how he saved from point blank range.

Sawyer frustrated Blyth again when he flung himself the length of the goal to tip a long range effort from Turnbull on to the post.

Michael Tait was the next Blyth player to find Sawyer in tremendous form as the midfielder’s shot from the edge of the area was palmed away by the Gloucester stopper.

And even when the towering goalkeeper was beaten, the post came to his rescue, this time to deny Brayson with time running out for the hosts to stage a comeback.

Phil Cave was in the right place to clear an effort from the goalmouth following an attempt from the dangerous Mullings before the final whistle was blown on the penultimate home game of the season at Croft Park.

Spartans: Lowson, Groves, Cave, Tait, Buchanan, White (Swailes), Alexander, Turnbull, Brayson, Deverdics, Dale

Attendance: 414.

In their final league fixture, Spartans entertain Guiseley on Monday, April, 25, at 3pm.