Blyth Spartans drop two points at home against Ashton United
Tom Wade was denied his 100th win as Blyth Spartans manager on Tuesday night in their Evo-Stik Premier Division top of the table clash, thanks to a late slice of luck for Ashton United.
The away side had twice went ahead through Gary Gee and Jack Dorney, but Blyth equalised through Daniel Maguire and a penalty from Stephen Turnbull to go into the break all square.
Spartans then went ahead through Sean Reid with 20 minutes to go, but Lee Gaskell had the last laugh with time running out as he charged down Peter Jeffries’ clearance in the 82nd minute and the ball fell nicely for him to slot home.
The hosts started the game in the ascendancy and looked dangerous in the final third straight away.
Chris Bell, making his first start of the season in place of Michael Liddle, fired a ball to the back post to Reid, who cushioned a header back across goal to Michael Richardson, where the stylish midfielder tried to flick the ball over his head to create an opening but got too much on it and Paul Phillips was able to gather.
Spartans then thought they scored the opener with five minutes gone. Turnbull curled a free kick around the Ashton wall from 20 yards, but he could only watch as the ball cannoned off the post with Phillips static in the middle of his goal.
The hosts were made to rue that missed chance when United took the lead with their first real chance of the game.
Gee was played in from the left and was left with the simple task of slotting the ball past an advancing Jeffries.
Blyth continued to pile the pressure on the visitors, despite going a goal down they looked certain to restore parity when man of the match Matty Pattison picked out Ryan Hutchinson at the back post with a cross, but the defender could only head the ball wide, but his blushes were spared - as the assistant flagged for offside.
Pattison was then involved again as he was bundled to the ground just outside the penalty area. Robert Dale worked the ball back into the box after the free kick was cleared, but none of his teammates were able to get a goal-bound touch on his fizzed low cross.
Spartans continued their dominance and were soon rewarded for their effort just before the half-hour mark.
A fantastic cross from Andrew Cartwright evaded the defender and found Maguire at the back post and he fired home from a tight angle past Phillips, who was unable to get enough of a hand on the ball to stop it from hitting the back of the net.
The hosts could then have been ahead less than a minute later but were left frustrated by an eerie sense of deja-vu from a set-piece.
Dale took over from Turnbull at the dead-ball and looked to have scored when he curled the ball around the Ashton wall with Phillips static. However, he was left frustrated when his strike ballooned off the crossbar and away.
As had been the case when they opened the scoring, Ashton came out of nowhere to retake the lead with just six minutes left in the first half.
Daniel Wilkins cut the ball back to Dorney at the edge of the Blyth area and the central midfielder curled a lovely effort just inside the post and out of Jeffries’ reach.
Spartans responded instantly and had Michael Andrews to thank for a great bit of game-reading by the referee.
Reid was fouled 25 yards out from goal, but play was allowed to continue with Richardson on the left. The former Newcastle United midfielder played the ball to Maguire in the box, but the striker was brought down by Gee and the referee had no option but to point to the spot.
Turnbull stepped up to dispatch the spot kick, but the home supporters had their hearts in their mouths when Phillips appeared to have dived down low to his left and get a touch on the penalty, but their despair soon turned into relief when the ball bounced down under the Ashton goalkeeper and into the roof of the net.
Wilkins was then shown the first yellow card of the evening for a late challenge on Bell in the half’s last piece of action.
Blyth kept up their momentum straight after the break and could have been ahead but for some last-ditch defending from United. Dale got down the left once again and tried to cut the ball back to Maguire on the penalty spot, but Jason Gorton was able to stretch and get a foot on the ball to just intercept the cross.
Dale got past Cavell Coo once again ten minutes later, but this the right back had no intention of letting the Blyth captain get into the box as he hacked him down on the left wing to receive Ashton’s second caution of the game.
Blyth continued to stamp their authority on the game and were agonisingly close to going ahead from a Pattison cross for the second time in as many games. Both Reid and Maguire were part of a group of bodies unable to get a touch on his cross from the right as the ball evaded all of them and went just wide of the far post.
The away side had been quiet for most of the second spell, but nearly popped up with a third goal with an hour on the clock.
Lee Gaskell cut back onto his left foot and fired a low drive across goal, looking for his fourth goal of the season, fortunately for Blyth it was always destined to go wide and no one was able to get on the end of it to turn it towards goal.
Spartans took full advantage of that let off soon after as the home side finally took the lead for the first time in the game with 20 minutes. A great move from Blyth ended with Richardson playing in Reid, who finished past Phillips off the post to score his first goal of the season.
The home side had looked good value for the win, but were left cursing their luck in the 82nd minute when they conceded an equaliser.
Gavin Caines didn’t get quite enough on his back pass to Jeffries and his clearance was charged down by Gaskell. The ball fell kindly for Ashton’s top scorer, who slotted the ball home despite Jeffries’ desperate efforts to keep it out.
As the game entered four minutes of added time, the visitors were shouting for a penalty when Dorney went down in the box. To the relief of the majority of the 562 fans inside Croft Park, the referee refused to blow his whistle.
Blyth then had their own shout for another spot kick when Maguire was sandwiched in the Ashton area, but again Andrews could not be persuaded to point to the spot.
It remains to be seen if this result is one point gained or two points dropped, but either way, Spartans will look to return to winning ways when they travel to Grantham Town on Saturday afternoon.
Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Cartwright, Bell, Caines, Hutchinson, Turnbull, Pattison, Richardson (Rivers 80), Maguire, Reid, Dale. Subs not used: Parker, Armstrong, Pell, McHugh.