Spartans bow out with last day loss

Blyth keeper David Knight is beaten from the penalty spot, as Nuneaton go 3-2 into the lead. Picture by Bill Broadley.
Blyth keeper David Knight is beaten from the penalty spot, as Nuneaton go 3-2 into the lead. Picture by Bill Broadley.

THE contrast in moods on the final whistle at Croft Park on Saturday was palpable.

A 3-2 victory for the visitors confirmed Nuneaton Town their place in the Blue Square Bet North play-offs, which prompted celebrations among players and supporters of the midlands outfit.

For Blyth Spartans, however, the curtain was drawn on what has been a disastrous season in which they were relegated for the first time in their proud 113-year history.

All five goals arrived in the opening 45 minutes before a second period which can only be described as a monumental anti-climax.

Spartans drew first blood after just four minutes when a cross from Dan Groves was punched away by visiting keeper Neil Collett, but only as far as Wayne Phillips who scored with a first time volley – despite the best efforts of Guy Hadland on the goal line.

Tommy Cassidy’s side were in front for less than a minute as James Armson saw his initial shot blocked by Wayne Buchanan before guiding the rebound past David Knight from just inside the area.

As expected the game settled down after Nuneaton’s equaliser – possibly too much so as there was not a single chance until Simon Forsdick fired the visitors in front on 30 minutes with a low shot from 16 yards after a mix up between Knight and Joe Kendrick.

Kendrick redeemed himself three minutes later when he curled an unstoppable free kick past Collett from 25 yards to restore parity for the hosts.

Unfortunately for Knight, though, he also played a big part in Boro’s third goal as he brought down Danny Glover in the area, leaving referee Andrew Miller no choice but to point to the penalty spot.

Glover dusted himself down to tuck his spot kick in to the bottom corner on 37 minutes.

Following a downpour of goals in the first half a drought ensued in the second period.

The visitors threatened to open up a two-goal lead five minutes after the break when Armson supplied Andy Brown – whose tame shot was comfortably saved by Knight.

At the other end Neal Hooks dragged a shot wide from 20 yards after decent build-up play from Phillips.

The best chance of the second half fell to Nuneaton defender Gareth Dean when he rose highest to meet a free kick from Gary Mills, but he could not keep his header down from close range.

A deflected shot from Phillips, which was gathered easily by Collett, and a speculative effort from substitute Lee Mason, was as good as it got for Spartans as they bowed out of the Blue Square Bet North with a whimper.

The Evo Stik Northern Premier Division awaits Spartans, but before then supporters of the club can expect the revolving door at Croft Park to be in full swing as Cassidy sets out to assemble a squad capable of mounting a serious promotion challenge next season.

Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Kendrick, Hodgson, Jones (Mellish), Buchanan, Slaughter, Hooks (Mason), Taylor, Armstrong (Bannister), Phillips. Man of the match: Kendrick.

Attendance: 363.