Tait’s team still to face stern examinations

BY Saturday lunchtime Blyth Spartans FC’s Croft Park was doused by a soft early summer sun, and the ensuing match against Gloucester City was equally soporific, consumed as it was by an end of season ambience which, seemingly, had players and spectators if not already on the beach then checking-in at the airport.

But even the long haul north did not have Gloucester dreaming of holidays to come, nor did it weaken their resolve.

They remained focused on the football still to be played in the Blue Square Bet North as a lingering threat of relegation hung over them.

Therein lay the tale to the game. The Spartans were slow out the blocks in the first half in which the visitors immediately took the upper hand.

“We started too slowly – again,” said Blyth manager Mick Tait.

“It was no real surprise when we went a goal behind after 20 minutes. We brought it on ourselves.

“I’ve told the players many times that we need to get the ball forward quicker but again they didn’t.

“All Gloucester did was lump the ball as far as possible up the pitch and because my lads are footballers they are reluctant to do the same, but sometimes you have to.”

The second came from a penalty after central defender Alan White handled.

“It was unfortunate,” said Tait.

“The ball bounced awkwardly on the hard pitch. Alan tried to control the ball on his stomach but it hit him on his arm.

“He didn’t move his arm to control it and some referees would not have given the pen, but I suppose if it had happened at the other end I would have wanted the penalty.”

After the interval Tait replaced White, who had been ill just before kick-off and after the team sheet had been handed in, with Chris Swailes, who himself was carrying a thigh injury and had been rested for the previous two games.

Swailes did well in the circumstances and Tait praised the three central defenders in his squad.

“In adversity they’ve all done well. I take my hat off to them.

“Wayne Buchanan played through Saturday’s game with a bleeding nose, as did Swazz [Swailes] just after he came on, plus on top of that Alan White should really not have started.”

Blyth did create chances in the second half with Paul Brayson coming close twice as well as efforts by Stephen Turnbull and Michael Tait.

Tait took some consolation from an improved second period.

He said: “We had the best clear cut chances but we weren’t good enough to win the game.

“We had no edge about us and while we wanted to finish the season well Gloucester wanted the points more than us.”

Facing a break of two weeks before the next game, Tait hopes to have Swailes back to full fitness along with Lowson, who has been carrying a groin strain, and Neal Hooks, who has yet to recover from an ankle injury.

Meanwhile winger Liam O’Mahoney, who missed the game at the weekend with flu, should have recovered.

With only a handful of league games left to play, Blyth will still be hoping for a top half finish, plus the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, to be played at Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park, awaits.

In school year parlance – the term is not over yet, and although the summer holidays are tantalisingly around the corner there are still examinations to come.