Several firsts for Blyth Spartans in win over Frickley

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THEY say first is everywhere and second is nowhere, and it was a day of firsts for Spartans on Saturday as they took three points from Frickley Athletic with a 4-2 win at Crodt Park.

Lee Mason netted his first goal of the season, Phil Airey scored his first goals since returning from injury and Ryan McGorrigan netted his first goal in a Spartans shirt.

All that meant that Paddy Atkinson got his first win in caretaker charge of the club and Spartans won their first game since the victory over Matlock Town in mid-September.

Atkinson was given a triple injury boost pre-match as Joe Kendrick returned after three weeks out and both Airey and Carl Jones were fit enough to take their place on the bench.

It was Spartans who started on the front foot and it would be Kendrick who had their first chance as a quick Robbie Dale free kick on the right wing found the Irishman on the angle of the Athletic area.

His left footed cross shot almost caught out the visitors keeper Tom Woodhead but the effort was palmed away to safety.

The dangerous looking Mason almost gave Damon Mullen his first goal in Spartans colours as the former Hartlepool United man cross from the right wing and found Mullen who headed over from the penalty spot.

Two minutes later and Athletic had their first chance as winger David Buck crashed a volley goalwards from the edge of the box that hit Spartans defender Darryll Donnelly and forced Conor Grant into a smart stop.

However, Atkinson’s side were back on the front foot and it would be recent signing McGorrigan who had their next chance.

And it was a golden one as he was played in on the angle of the box and was one-on-one with Woodhead. McGorrigan crashed an effort goalwards that smashed off the near post and ran away to safety.

Spartans took the lead on 37 minutes and it was Mason who notched his first goal of the season, although the winger did admit post-match that there was an element of fortune about how it came about.

Some impressive link up play between Shaun Utterson and Dale saw them feed the ball into McGorrigan, who held off the strong challenge of visitors defender Jake Picton.

The striker rolled the ball out wide to Mason who cut in from the right and curled a left footed cross into the box, but it deceived Woodhead and curled into the top corner.

A rare moment of luck for Atkinson and his side, but a moment that they were unable to celebrate for long as Frickley hit back within two minutes.

A loose ball on the edge of the Spartans area was not cleared and Athletic captain Matty Bloor played in striker Luke Hinsley who smashed past Grant from 12 yards out.

Grant was put to the test again prior to half-time as Hinsley charged down a clearance from the Spartans keeper who then recovered well and prevented the Frickley forward from putting his side ahead going into the interval, although the visitors were appealing for a penalty.

It was an even first half and the interval score was just about fair as both sides struggled to cope with a Croft Park pitch that had taken a battering after the wintry conditions that had covered the area in the previous 24 hours.

However, it must be said both teams were trying to play a passing game and there was some good football on show.

It would be Frickley who had the first chance of the second period as striker Gavin Allott charged into the Spartans area and his right footed effort caught the leg of Utterson and rebounded off the far post and away to safety.

It was a sloppy and quiet start to the second half from both sides and on the hour mark both managers began to make changes with Atkinson the more successful in changing the game.

Jones and Airey made their return from injuries replacing Kendrick and Donnelly and a half that had turned into a war of attrition clicked into life with ten minutes remaining, although again luck was slightly on Spartans side.

Neal Hooks played a lovely chipped pass into the inside right channel that Shaun Vipond just kept and scuffed a cross into the box.

McGorrigan got in front of his marker but seemed to lose his balance on the slippy Croft Park surface but the whistle went and a spot kick was awarded. In the absence of regular penalty takers Kendrick and Craig Farrell it would be Dale to take the spot kick.

His effort was saved low down to the right but Woodhead could not hold on to it and McGorrigan reacted first and scored his first goal in Spartans colours.

Three minutes later and a goal that a year ago would have been created and scored in the black and white of Newcastle United happened in the green and white of Spartans as Atkinson’s side extended their lead.

Magpies’ academy products McGorrigan and Airey combined as the former played Airey in one-on-one with Woodhead, although the Amble born front man did have to hold off the challenge of two Athletic defenders before finishing well into the roof of the net.

And it would not be long before Airey had another goal. A weak headed back pass from Luke Danville was seized upon by McGorrigan and as he drove into the left hand side of the Athletic area he calmly rolled the ball to Airey who smashed home from ten yards out and clinched three points for Atkinson and Spartans, although there would be a consolation for the visitors as some slack defending allowed Allot to roll in substitute Yates who made no mistake from eight yards despite the best efforts of Utterson on the line.

So a much more positive outcome for Atkinson and Spartans as they showed a clinical side helped by the return of Airey and the hard-working performance of McGorrigan, who deserved his first goal in Spartans colours.

It should be noted that the influence of Atkinson and assistant Tom Wade is starting to be seen as their side played a more calm passing game rather than the direct style that has been seen recently.

Spartans fans will be hoping that can carry on as they travel to Worksop on Wednesday night before entertaining Stafford Rangers on Saturday at Croft Park.

Spartans’ sponsors man of the match: Lee Mason.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick (Jones 67), Mullen (Hodgson 81), Buchanan, Donnolly (Airey 67), Hooks, Dale, Vipond, Mason, McGorrigan. Subs not used: Maguire, Berj.

Attendance: 288.