Blyth Spartans skipper scores then saves last minute penalty

Blyth Spartans skipper Robbie Dale in action. Picture by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans skipper Robbie Dale in action. Picture by Bill Broadley

Blyth Spartans captain Robert Dale was the hero in his side’s 2-1 win over Grantham Town as he saved a last minute penalty after scoring his side’s second in a game played in thunder and lighting.

Michael Richardson netted a fantastic strike from halfway in awful conditions before Dale slotted home from a poor pass back from Danny Meadows.

Meadows atoned for his error from the penalty spot a minute later, but was subbed off before Peter Jeffries was sent off for retaliation late on.

It was left to substitute Jamie McGhee to step up to level the scores with another penalty, but Dale pulled off a fantastic save to deny the hosts a share of the spoils at The South Kesteven Sports Stadium.

Spartans goalkeeper Jeffries was tested early on when Lee Shaw struck a speculative effort from the right. The ball was straight at Jeffries and he kept the ball out with a routine save.

Jeffries was then called upon again soon after when a Grantham counter-attack saw Jack Beckett cross in from the left. Ben Saunders rose above the Blyth defence but headed the ball straight at the safe hands of the Spartans stopper.

Blyth looked to have created their first real opening in the eighth minute when Dale played a beautiful ball through to Richardson, but unfortunately Blyth’s captain got just too much on it and Jake Turner was able to rush out and smother the ball.

A Sean Reid foul on the 15-minute mark nearly ended up in a yellow card for Stephen Turnbull after the charismatic midfielder took exception to referee Martyn Fryer’s decision and spoke out of turn. A long word followed but, thankfully for Turnbull, the official’s yellow card stayed in his pocket.

Spartans nearly took the lead through the most unlikeliest of sources. Jeffries, who had bemoaned Ashton’s equaliser from his clearance on Tuesday, hoofed a long ball upfield and it appeared to be heading into the Grantham goal, which caused Turner to scramble wildly back and stop it from creeping in as he was under pressure from Daniel Maguire.

They say keepers are a mad breed and Jeffries did nothing to shake that stereotype when Grantham played a through ball over to Saunders in the box. With the striker bearing down on the ball, Jeffries showed great bravery to gather the ball just prior to a collision between the pair.

Blyth turned on the style in the 25th minute with a fantastic piece of play and perhaps deserved to open the scoring from it.

A sweeping move saw Dale play in Andrew Cartwright down the right, who then cut the ball back to Matty Pattison at the edge of the box and he struck the ball high across goal, but it cleared the crossbar.

Richardson then tried an audacious volley on the half hour from the edge of the box, but he got far too much on it and it sailed over the goal.

The Grantham fans were then raging when they were denied a penalty five minutes later. Gavin Caines appeared to catch Ellis Storey in the box, but the appeals were rejected.

Spartans continued to play some lovely football, with Reid, Pattison and Maguire linking up well to get the latter into the box with the ball at his feet and his back to goal. Maguire tried to turn and shoot, but lost his footing on the turn and the defender cleared.

The visitors were caught out just before the break and were lucky to go in at half-time on level terms.

Grantham broke quickly, which allowed Beckett to pick out Lee Shaw at the back post. The striker had thetarget at his mercy when he stabbed a shot at goal, but somehow managed to put it wide when it was easier to score.

Spartans struggled out of the blocks at the start of the second half at the part-time Athletics ground and were nearly caught cold by another Grantham break.

Turnbull’s corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble that was knocked up to Shaw. He ran at goal and pulled the trigger but could only watch as his shot was blocked behind.

Thunder clapped repeatedly from the skies along with torrential rain, but it was lightning that would soon strike twice as Richardson opened the scoring on 66 minutes.

He sold a sliding Town defender on halfway and spotted Turner off his line. The Grantham goalkeeper was left helpless by the audacious strike, which flew past him and nestled in the net.

Spartans were soon 2-0 up and it all came about from some instinctive play from skipper Dale. He perfectly read a poor back pass from Meadows to roll the ball past Turner for his first goal of the season.

It looked to be going swimmingly for the visitors in wet conditions, but Grantham were thrown a lifeline from the penalty spot. Meadows’ fortune soon changed when he stepped up to dispatch the spot-kick past Jeffries.

Richardson then had a golden chance to score his second of the game when he reacted quickest to Pattison’s miss-hit shot. Put through in the box from the shot, Richardson’s goal-bound shot was hacked away by one of a host of Grantham bodies on the line.

Two bookings for Blyth soon followed as Jeffries was cautioned for time-wasting as he removed his gloves to tie his laces at a goal kick, before Dale received a yellow for a coming together while wasting time in the corner.

A routine free-kick save from Jeffries in added time turned into disaster for Spartans, when he was caught by a late challenge with the ball in his hands. The keeper lashed out in retaliation, which led to the referee pointing to the spot and sending off Jeffries.

Just as he had done on this ground in September 2013, it was left to Dale to step up between the sticks for McGhee’s penalty. Usually a match-winner down the other end, Dale guessed the right way and saved the powerful penalty with his legs to claim all three points for Blyth.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Cartwright, Bell, Caines, Hutchinson, Turnbull (Pell 89), Pattison (Wade 90), Richardson, Maguire, Reid, Dale. Subs not used: Rivers, Parker, Armstrong.

Attendance: 173.