BLYTH Spartans FC tasted defeat for the second time in a week as they lost to Northern League division one side Norton and Stockton Ancients at the Station Road ground on Saturday.
Following a midweek 3-1 reverse against Hartlepool United, a youthful Spartans side found themselves two goals behind within the first 25 minutes against Ancients.
A number of changes at half-time had an immediate impact, with Lee Mason heading home shortly after the interval.
The visitors failed to build on this, however, and conceded twice in quick succession before Graeme Armstrong scored to set up an interesting finale, in which Blyth hit the woodwork and had a strong penalty appeal turned down.
Steve Cuggy’s side enjoyed a lot of possession in the opening exchanges but it was the hosts who posed the biggest threat going forward.
Nathan Mulligan dragged his first chance wide but found the target on 14 minutes with his next effort, which he slid past stand-in goalkeeper Neil Compson.
Compson had a moment to forget on 24 minutes when a hopeful long range shot from Shaun Clarke went under the body of the Blyth keeper, doubling the home side’s advantage.
After half an hour of play Blyth created their first real opportunity when a deep corner was met by an acrobatic effort from Dan Groves which deflected just over the crossbar.
Chris Emms was beginning to cause Norton problems with his surging runs from a deep lying position.
On one such crusade through the middle he was scythed down by David Alderson, who received a caution. Emms, obviously still feeling the effects of the challenge, was soon replaced Rob Dale.
Mason tested Norton goalkeeper James Provett with a strike from 30 yards just before half-time.
Armstrong, Wayne Buchanan and Phil Cave were introduced for the start of the second period and Blyth were soon back in the contest when Mason met a Wayne Phillips cross with a bullet header at the back post.
Having just halved the deficit and with an influx of more experienced players on the pitch, it was surprising to see Blyth fall further behind on 50 minutes, when Mulligan rose to guide a header past Compson for his second of the afternoon.
Mulligan got his hat-trick and made it 4-1 five minutes later from the penalty spot after Adam Forster had upended Karl Richards in the area.
Armstrong gave Blyth a glimmer of hope with 25 minutes remaining when he guided his near post header in to the far corner, with Phillips once again the provider.
Armstrong then almost scored a second when he rolled his shot agonisingly wide after textbook hold up play by Dale.
Cave rattled the crossbar with a stunning strike from 25 yards with Provett rooted to the spot before Armstrong turned and shot but the ball was a comfortable height for the goalkeeper.
Blyth began to turn on the style in the final third with Dale showing some classy touches and Armstrong demonstrating his artistry as a front-man.
There was still time for controversy before the end when Blyth’s French forward Yanis Galas was tripped in the area but the referee waved away appeals for a penalty.
Blyth Spartans: Compson, Groves, Slaughter, Forster, Coulson, Pearson, Mason, Hooks, Galas, Emms, Phillips. Substitutes: Buchanan, Dale, Armstrong, Cave, Douglas, King.