Late lapses cost hard-working Spartans

IF points were given out for discipline and organisation then Tom Wade would be celebrating leading his Blyth Spartans side to three consecutive wins as they put on a heartening show in front of an impressive travelling band of the Green Army against FC United of Manchester.

However, late lapses of concentration cost Spartans dear as two goals in two minutes meant that the Rebels took all three points and did the double over Spartans in the process.

Joe Kendrick had scored for the second consecutive week to put his side ahead, but goals from Mike Norton and substitute Tom Greaves ensured United emerged victorious in front of a crowd of 1,730.

It was a change of formation for Spartans as Wade and new coach John Cornforth opted for a five man midfield, with in-form striker Daniel Maguire given the lone front man role.

Mark Cook replaced Conor Grant between the sticks, making his Spartans debut in the process, and Craig Hubbard came into midfield while Phil Airey reverted to full back to cover for the unavailable Damen Mullen.

It was the home side who had the first chance of the game in the tenth minute as an Astley Mulholland cross was headed to the edge of the box by Spartans skipper Wayne Buchanan. Rebels full back Dean Stott latched on to the loose ball and after composing himself he could only curl a 20-yard effort just past Cook’s far post.

That miss was to prove costly for the hosts as within a minute Spartans were ahead.

The ever willing Maguire harassed Adam Jones into conceding a corner thanks to his persistence.

Stephen Turnbull took the flag kick and he found the head of Kendrick who headed home his seventh goal of the season from ten yards.

The game turned into a war of attrition soon after and Spartans’ hard work and determination frustrated the home side, who looked increasingly desperate as the half went on.

Efforts from distance from Jerome Wright and Matthew Wolfenden were all the Rebels had to show for their efforts as Cook went largely untested.

Five minutes before the interval came the final chance of the half as midfielder Sam Fitzgerald fired wide from the edge of the box.

Both sides exchanged chances at the start of the second half as the once again impressive Maguire span past his marker and struck a low left footed effort that was easily saved by James Spencer.

Then Mulholland curled just past Cook’s far post for the home side.

The game then followed an all too familiar pattern for the home side as they enjoyed plenty of possession but were frustrated by a hard working Spartans side with the midfield three of Hooks, Turnbull and in particular Hubbard pressing the Rebels all over the park.

Spartans came within a whisker of doubling their lead 12 minutes from time and it was to be the turning point of the game.

Robbie Dale embarrassed Rebels full back Neville and curled a wonderful left footed effort from the angle of the box but saw his effort hit the bar and go over.

If that effort went in then there can be no question Spartans would have ventured back to Northumberland with all three points, but their resistance was to be broken two minutes later.

A ball into the area saw Airey clear but he could only find the edge of the box and Rebels substitute Carlos Roca managed to find Mike Norton who was left with a simple finish six yards out and he made no mistake in putting his side on level terms.

Within two minutes they were in front and it was Roca again at the heart of the action.

An over-hit cross found the winger on the right side of the Spartans area and his cross bobbled into the net, agonisingly past the outstretched arms of Cook via FC United substitute Greaves.

Spartans rallied for an equaliser as the full-time whistle drew closer.

An Airey free kick into the box found the home side’s keeper Spencer flapping and the loose ball ran to Lee Mason but his volley went harmlessly over the bar.

With a minute of the four added remaining, a Dale cross-shot was headed clear by Jones as it seemed set to drop into the far post.

Within seconds, though, referee Haycock blew the final whistle and ensured that the home side took all three points.

Although Spartans came away with no points it was a day that everyone connected with the club will look back on with a lot of pride.

For Wade, Cornforth and the players, they can look back upon a disciplined and organised display that has been rarely matched this season.

And the travelling Green Army turned up in their masses and have to take great credit for their continued, and not to mention very vocal backing, of the team.

Blyth Spartans: Cook, Slaughter, Airey, Buchanan, Kendrick, Mason, Turnbull (Berj 83), Hooks (Jennings 82), Dale, Maguire, Hubbard Subs not used: Grant, Mellish, Stanger.

Attendance: 1,730.