Daniel Maguire’s brace inspired a 3-1 winning start for Blyth Spartans against Coalville Town – although the home side were forced to play more than half of the game with ten men.
Maguire scored almost identical goals either side of a Sean Reid header to ensure that Massiah McDonald’s equaliser and then Nathan Buddle’s sending off did not spoil the party in their Evo-Stik Premier Division opener against the newly promoted Leicestershire-based side.
Having seen Buddle receive his marching orders in the 37th minute, Spartans dealt well with being a man down before Maguire was able to seal all three points late on.
Sunny weather gave way to light showers prior to kick-off, but that did not dampen the spirit of the Croft Park faithful.
And Spartans started the new season just as they had ended the last as a familiar face opened the scoring on six minutes.
Reid played through Michael Richardson on the right, who picked out Maguire in the box, and after his first shot blocked, he kept his composure to turn onto his other foot and fire home to put the hosts ahead.
McDonald then received the first yellow card of the game after going through the back of Michael Liddle on halfway. He could perhaps count himself lucky to still be on the pitch, with plenty of Spartans’ voices bellowing for a red.
As if that was not enough of a sickener for the home support, McDonald would then level proceedings just two minutes later as he was quickest to react to Peter Jeffries’ block on Nathan Watson’s shot and was left to calmly stab the ball into an empty net.
The game took on a sour note with a number of hard Coalville challenges going unpunished by referee John Mathews, before sarcastic cheers were heard around the ground in the 21st minute as a yellow was finally shown to Danny Jenno, who had brought down Maguire as he was looking to run onto a lofted through ball from the back.
The visitors broke from the resulting Spartans free kick and had looked to have capitalised on Ryan Hutchinson’s attempt to play it out from the back, but Spartans skipper Robert Dale was on hand to cut out the cross at the near post.
Jeffries was next to be caught in doubt for the hosts as he began to come to collect the ball before realising Karl Demidh would get there before him. However, he redeemed himself straight away with a save from the winger’s shot.
Maguire made a jinking run inside the box just after the half hour mark, turning the Coalville defenders inside and out in the process, and looked to have grabbed his second of the afternoon with a low hard drive past goalkeeper Sean Bowles, but a fantastic slide from the last defender knocked the ball behind.
Blyth were not to be denied, though, as they reclaimed the lead from the resulting corner.
Set-piece specialist Stephen Turnbull picked out the near post run of Reid, who was able to beat his man and power a header past the outstretched hand of Bowles to restore the Spartans’ lead.
Just as everything appeared to be getting back on track for the hosts, what can only be described as bemusing chaos ensued two minutes later.
As play continued down the left, Buddle squared up to Coalville keeper Bowles in the box following an incident involving the Spartans defender, in which he kicked out at a Coalville player. The referee consulted with his assistant on that side, which led to a sending off for violent conduct for the centre-back.
Blyth’s frustration was further compounded when Demidh escaped punishment after he caught Dale late soon after, but they held on to go into the break with their lead intact.
Coalville came out strong at the start of the second half, but Blyth were able to deal with the numerous corners that the away side won.
Jared Holmes then managed to curl the ball around Jeffries’ fingertips from the edge of the area, but his shot went narrowly around the outside of the post as well.
On what was a busy return for the Spartans’ stopper, Jeffries was called upon soon after and he produced a save from the top draw to keep Coalville out once again. Steve Towers unleashed a fierce drive from long-range that appeared to be heading for the top corner, until Jeffries leapt across his goal and punched it to safety with ease.
Demidh finally found his way into the referee’s book with an hour played for persistent fouling and it was his last action of the game as he made way for Liam Hurst at the same time that Brad Munn came on for Will Dennis.
Jenno was the next Coalville player into the book as he brought down Maguire as he was advanced towards goal. Reid soon followed for something he said to the referee.
In a half that saw more action from the referee’s pencil than either of the two sides, Cartwright then received a booking for a coming together with Troke.
With some hard-hitting from both sides, it was left to Maguire to strike with the ball with real venom from the edge of the box. Unfortunately, it was straight at Bowles who reacted with a point-blank save.
Maguire learnt from that mistake soon after though and produced almost a carbon-copy of his first goal to give Spartans some breathing space with less than ten minutes to go.
With the ball played into his feet inside the area, Maguire channelled the late Johan Cruyff to turn and sell the defender, before firing the ball past Bowles and into the roof of the net.
Man of the match Maguire then left the field to a standing ovation from the Croft Park crowd as he made way for Spartans debutant Luke Armstrong.
Spartans were able to hold on for a winning start to the new season, which Tom Wade’s men will surely look to continue when they travel to Marine on Tuesday evening.
Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Cartwright, Liddle, Buddle, Hutchinson, Turnbull, Richardson, Pattison (Wade 84), Maguire (Armstrong 88), Reid, Dale. Subs not used: Caines, Parker, McHugh.