Spartans close in on league title ...

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A dominant Blyth Spartans left it late to secure a 2-1 victory against Rushall Olympic, with both sides scoring in second half stoppage time.

A wasteful Spartans could not convert their superiority into goals until David McTiernan nodded home his first for the club with 72 minutes on the clock.

However, Pics substitute Stan Mugisha then looked to have snatched a point for Rushall in the first minute of added time.

Much to the relief of a bumper 796 Croft Park crowd, Jarrett Rivers was then on hand to slot home the winner just 60 seconds later as Spartans put themselves just ten points away from the Evo-Stik Premier League title.

Manager Alun Armstrong had to do without the services of captain Robert Dale again, so Matty Pattison took his place on the left wing and Sean Reid continued his promising partnership with Jordan Laidler in midfield. Meanwhile, new loan signing Shaun McDonald took his place among the substitutes.

Blyth began strongly and could have been ahead as early as the fifth minute when Luke Armstrong pinched the ball off Henry Eze. The striker tried to cut the ball back to Daniel Maguire, but his pass was intercepted.

Some brilliant link-up play down the left ended up with Pattison with the ball at his feet eight minutes later, but his shot was turned behind by a brilliant diving block Aris Christophorou.

A looping header from Pattison had to be hacked off the line by Brian Smikle on 14 minutes, before Reid failed to find the target from 30 yards a minute later.

Some clever play from left-back Michael Liddle then played in Maguire on 20 minutes. He picked his spot at the near post, but his fierce effort was punched clear.

Laidler eased Smikle off the ball eight minutes later and tried to feed Maguire, but the touch of Spartans’ top scorer was too heavy and Jose Veiga was able to gather at his feet.

Maguire went close once again on the half-hour mark when he shot on the turn at the edge of the area. The ball looked to be heading for the back of the net across Veiga, but Olympic’s keeper dived across goal to push the ball to safety.

Maguire forced another fine save from Veiga two minutes later after seeing his first shot blocked by a Rushall body. Maguire curled his follow-up through a crowd of defenders, but a diving Veiga got down well to once again thwart the 24-year-old.

An utterly dominant Blyth continued to try and find a breakthrough, but had their heads in their hands again with seven minutes of the first half to go.

Pattison’s corner towards the back picked out Hutchinson, who took a touch and tried to place a shot into the top corner. However, the bulky Eze leapt up on the line to head clear and send the two sides in level.

After a frustrating first half, Spartans seemed determined to assert their dominance with a goal within two minutes of the restart. Armstrong drilled a low shot from a tight angle after a nice flick from Reid helped him beat his marker, but Veiga held well.

Rushall had to wait 56 minutes for their first chance of the game, but they really should have made more of what was a gift from Andrew Cartwright’s air clearance. The ball fell perfectly for Gungit Singh, but he blazed well wide with the goal at his mercy.

The home side were lucky not to be behind, but looked to take full advantage of that slip up just two minutes later. However, Maguire could only fire into the side netting after Pattison played him in.

Michael Liddle then picked a clearance up on the edge of the visitors area three minutes after the hour mark. He took a touch to compose himself, but could only fire a shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Maguire managed to get under another high ball in the area two minutes later, but his volley attempt was scuffed down the throat of a grateful Veiga.

Rivers was next to have a strike within a minute after jinking his way to the edge of the Rushall box. He shot low and hard towards the near post, but it rolled wide of the upright.

Rivers was creating chaos again on 72 minutes, which finally saw Spartans get the better of a resolute Rushall backline.

The winger’s cross looked to pick out Maguire at the back post, who leapt up to challenge with two Pics defenders. The ball ricocheted off the jumping pack and into the path of McTiernan, who nodded home his first goal for the club from two yards.

Things could have been even better for Blyth with nine minutes to go, when Armstrong gained possession on the left and played in Maguire one-on-one. Maguire waited until Veiga dropped to his knees to roll the back to Armstrong, who uncharacteristically blasted the ball wide.

Armstrong would not have long to dwell on that miss as Maguire cut the ball back to him just 60 seconds later. Trying to find the inside of the far post from a tight angle, the 20-year-old side footed wide with Veiga beaten again.

Rushall pushed forward to try and get an equaliser, which allowed Spartans to break in the last minute. Nathan Buddle’s ball forward released fellow substitute Adam Wrightson, but Veiga saved well at his feet just inside the Rushall area.

Olympic continued to press and appeared to have snatched a point in the first minute of added time, when Mugisha battled well with Buddle inside the Blyth box. The substitute was forced wide, but was able to find the far corner despite Paul Woolston getting a hand on his shot.

The Croft Park faithful were rightfully up in arms about their side seemingly throwing away two points, but they were back on their feet a minute later when Spartans managed to get themselves out of jail once again.

Brilliant play from Maguire ended with him picking out Rivers with a low cross. Rivers was the calmest man inside Croft Park as he slotted the ball home to secure a late late win for the home side.

Alun Armstrong’s side now have a week to get their breath back after a late flurry of drama as they travel to Stafford Rangers next Saturday.

Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Cartwright (Buddle 58), Liddle, Laidler (McTiernan 58), Hutchinson, Watson, Rivers, Pattison (Wrightson 64), Maguire, Armstrong, Reid. Subs not used: Bell, MacDonald.

Attendance: 796.