Nine-man Spartans show fighting spirit

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There was plenty of Blyth Spirit on display from nine-man Spartans at the Help for Heroes Stadium, a place where Witton Albion had beaten them twice last season.

A late Robbie Dale penalty won the points but it was a brave, honest and most of all committed performance from the men in yellow that more than made up for the loss of Neal Hooks and Craig Hubbard as referee Steven Mycock dismissed the duo.

Wade was able to call upon the services of goalkeeper Michael Misiewicz for the first time and he handed the Canadian Under-23 international his debut in place of Conor Grant.

There was only one other change for Spartans as Hooks replaced the unavailable Damen Mullen.

Albion had the first chance within two minutes as striker Christopher Luby was played through on goal, but he was denied by a superb last ditch tackle by Spartans skipper Arjun Purewal, it wouldn’t be the last time he would do that either.

The opening stages were all about the home side with Misiewicz called into action in the tenth minute as he produced a smart stop to tip a 20-yard Daniel Andrews effort just around the post.

Having taken their time to settle into the game, Spartans had their first chance soon after.

An impressive passing move between Dale, Dan Maguire and Matthew Wade saw the latter fire a wicked ball across the face of goal and only a brave clearance from Albion full back Cliff Moyo denied Ian Watson his first goal for the club as Wade’s side began to grow in confidence.

Ten minutes before the break Misiewicz announced his arrival on the scene in the best possible way, although Spartans were left with an even tougher task to keep their unbeaten away record as Hooks saw red for a professional foul on Luby.

The resultant penalty was taken by Josh Hancock but Misiewicz produced a stunning stop to deny the Albion winger and boost Spartans heading into half-time.

With Spartans preparing themselves for a much improved Albion performance during the second half, they came out from the changing room in a determined manner.

They had the first chance of the second period as Dale and Maguire played a wonderfully incisive one-two that saw the latter lash a volley narrowly over the crossbar from just inside the box.

Despite their man advantage the home side were struggling to cope with a fiercely determined Spartans side and frustration grew around the Help for Heroes Stadium.

Just as Spartans grew into the game so did the influence of Dale.

On the hour mark the winger curled a vicious free kick to the far post that Albion defender Marc Joseph almost headed into his own goal.

As the clock ticked on Dale was at it again. He turned Cliff Moyo inside out before cutting in on his right foot and forcing Matthew Cooper into a smart stop to his left.

The decisive moment of the game came in with eight minutes left on the clock.

A cross into the box from Buddle caused havoc for the home defence and Maguire found an inch of space to lay the ball off to Wade. The midfielder took a touch but was sent to the ground by a vicious tackle from Andrews. It was a challenge that could have caused a serious injury and Wade is fortunate to have walked away from the incident.

Dale stepped up to take the spot kick and he succeeded where Hancock had failed and sent Cooper the wrong way.

With the game entering injury time Spartans came within a whisker of doubling their lead and it should be no surprise that Dale was at the heart of it.

The winger went on a mazy dribble from left to right. Seemingly boxed in by the corner flag he bamboozled Albion substitute Dawson to work his way into the box. Dale found Maguire ten yards from goal and the striker struck a rising effort that crashed off the crossbar before Joseph cleared.

Spartans had to contend with a second dismissal in the second minute of injury time as Hubbard saw red for a second yellow card and it turned into a backs to the wall job for Wade’s men.

In the last of six injury time minutes, Misiewicz was forced into action once more, producing a smart stop from a Powell volley with referee Mycock blowing for full-time seconds later.

The win moved Spartans up to fifth position in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League table and maintained their unbeaten away start to the season.

It was also their third clean sheet in five away fixtures, quite the statistic for a side who conceded 87 goals last term.

Spartans have won praise for their passing football this season but on Saturday they showed another side to their game.

From one to 11 and beyond every player produced supremely committed performances that they can look upon with satisfaction and pride.

Manager Tom Wade and his staff they can take credit for the organisation and determination they have instilled in their Spartans squad.

This was a day that everyone connected with the club can be proud of.

Spartans’ man of the match Michael Misiewicz.

Blyth Spartans: Misiewicz, Buddle, Lancaster, Parker, Purewal, Hubbard, Watson (Airey 55), Hooks, Maguire (Cummings 90), Wade, Dale (Nolan 90) Subs not used: Grant, Wearmouth.

Attendance: 401.