A BRAVE show from Blyth Spartans saw them push Evo-Stik Northern Premier League leaders North Ferriby United all the way in their opening match of 2013, but would ultimately leave the Rapid Solicitors Stadium empty handed.
Two goals from Ryan McGorrigan weren’t enough to give Spartans three points as they look to put the nightmare that was 2012 behind them, although they will be able to count themselves unlucky that they didn’t take at least a point from the Villagers.
With Marcus Maddison, Sam Hodgson and Joe Kendrick not selected, Darryll Donnelly unfit and Craig Hubbard suffering from flu, Spartans manager Paddy Atkinson recalled Damen Mullen to his line up and rewarded McGorrigan for his stunning equaliser against Whitby Town with a starting spot.
As expected for a side who are clear at the top of the Northern Premier League, United were on top in the early stages without really threatening Conor Grant’s goal and it took until the twentieth minute for the first meaningful chance. It would however lead to the opening goal for the hosts as their strike partnership Ryan Kendall and Anthony Wilson combined.
The former cut in from the left as Spartans gave possession away cheaply and his pinpoint cross found the Wilson who headed into the bottom right hand corner for his seventh goal of the season.
Two minutes later and the home side could and probably should have doubled their lead as centre back Gregg Anderson headed over from close range as he connected with a Williams free kick.
Spartans had to wait until the twenty fifth minute when McGorrigan beat three men and fired over from the edge of the box, his time came minutes later as he equalised, but not before Spartans lost Neal Hooks to an eye injury as he was replaced with Tom Berj.
On the half hour mark the persistence of Robbie Dale in midfield was rewarded as he played a ball over the top for McGorrigan to run on to and the former Newcastle United Academy striker made full use of a mix up in the hosts’ defence and calmly rolled home from the edge of the box.
United hit straight back and Spartans had to thank Damen Mullen as the left back headed a Lisles shot off the line to keep his side on level terms.
As the break drew nearer Spartans had two golden chances to go in with a rather undeserved lead.
Shaun Utterson released McGorrigan in one on one with United keeper Adam Nicklin, but the Spartans hitman fired wide under pressure.
Then on the stroke of half time the impressive Robbie Dale twisted his marker inside out on the right and crossed to the far post where the onrushing Andy Jennings and Michael Riley just failed to make contact meaning the sides went into the interval level.
Spartans started the second half on top and some impressive build up play saw Dale release Utterson down the right wing.
The full back broke into the United area and was brought down by Williams.
As everyone waited for the spot kick to be awarded referee Peart waved away furious protests to leave Spartans shocked at the lack of an award.
That injustice would be compounded minutes later as the home side took the lead, although it was another set piece goal conceded.
Nathan Peat sent in a free kick that Spartans failed to clear and centre back Anderson hooked the ball goalwards and it fell just inside Grant’s left hand post.
As the second half ticked on Spartans pushed to get back in the game and a snap shot from Andy Jennings was the closest they came as the former Billingham Synthonia striker saw his low effort well saved by Nicklin.
The Villagers would increase their lead with fifteen minutes left as a long ball into the area found Wilson and the striker span his marker and finished well from ten yards for his second goal of the game. From that point on it was all about Spartans as they bravely battled against a side high on confidence.
With ten minutes left a Grant free kick was flicked on by Dale and Tom Berj got on the end of it just inside the box. The midfielder round keeper Nicklin but a last ditch tackle from Peart meant that Berj was denied his first Spartans league goal. Soon after Spartans would be back in the game and it would be McGorrigan again who got the goal. The hardworking Jennings rolled the ball to McGorrigan twenty yards from goal and the striker crashed an effort into the top corner of the hosts’ net with Nicklin getting fingertips to the ball but failing to keep it out.
Bouyed by the goal Spartans nearly grabbed an equaliser as Berj refused to give up a lost cause and hooked a ball back to Lee Mason as Lisles tried to let the ball run out for a goal kick.
Mason ran at goal on the angle but his effort narrowly missed the far post.
One last chance fell to Spartans in injury time as a ball into the box caused havoc and a loose ball fell to Berj. His effort seemed destined for the bottom corner only to be blocked on the edge of the six yard box by Anderson and all of Spartans efforts would go unrewarded although their were plenty of positives for Atkinson and his side as they prepare to welcome Matlock Town to Croft Park this coming Saturday.