Spartans conjure up creditable opening

BEFORE Saturday’s opening league game at Histon, new Byth Spartans FC manager Steve Cuggy claimed he and his assistant, Gavin Fell, weren’t magicians – suddenly able to make everything right.

However, they were able to conjure up an exhilarating performance and a highly creditable result.

Coming back from two goals down to get a draw in their opening Blue Square Bet North fixture and finish the stronger side, Spartans fans can be under no illusion that, although there may be bad spells during the course of the season, there is a certain magic in the air around the new look Blyth squad.

Cuggy though had mixed feelings about the result.

“Straight after the final whistle I was really pleased seeing as we had pulled back Histon’s two-goal lead, but in fact we could have gone on to win it,” he said.

After a five-hour coach trip to Cambridgeshire, Blyth were a little slow out of the blocks but nevertheless created chances.

Histon worried Blyth with some incisive attacking play but the Spartans were just getting on top when the home side took the lead through debutant Dan Holman.

“It was a tremendous strike,” said Cuggy. “Max Johnson in our goal had no chance”.

Going in at half time one goal down Cuggy, pictured, was not despondent.

He added: “I said at the break that Histon didn’t look the most confident of teams whereas we were. I told the players we could go on to win the game.”

The second half started with Blyth in top gear and with midfielders Shaun Vipond and Wayne Phillips testing Holman.

Then after only ten minutes Cuggy pulled a rabbit out of the hat by bringing on forward Glen Taylor for Ritchie Slaughter.

“It was a tactical switch,” said Cuggy. “I thought we could get at their back four a little more and with increased physical presence that we could rattle them.

“Glen did really well. Coming to Blyth this season is a big move for him but he has a lot of potential and I think he can step up to the mark in this league.”

Indeed Taylor won everything in the air and within a minute of his introduction Blyth almost equalised when Graeme Armstrong failed to direct a Wayne Phillips cross in to the goal.

However despite centre back Wayne Buchanan defending resolutely, throwing his body in front of attack after attack with abandon, Histon extended their lead through Matt Breeze.

Oddly it was at this point in the contest that Histon’s lead and presence started to do a disappearing act.

Blyth’s character showed through and within minutes they pulled a goal back through defender David Coulson.

“We’ve got a few big lads in the side,” said Cuggy.

“Gavin was working with the players on set pieces at training on Thursday and we knew that with Histon not being the biggest side that if we got in crosses which were kept away from the keeper then we were in with a chance.”

Then, with ten minutes remaining, Blyth scored once more when a neat Taylor flick found Armstrong with his back to goal but he calmly turned his defender to shot past Stadelmann.

Blyth continued to pour forward but it was down to Johnson in the visitors’ goal to keep them in the game by pulling of a stunning save with four minutes left.

In the dying seconds Coulson had the chance to head the winner for the Spartans but his effort went narrowly wide.

To come back from almost certain defeat to a position of deserving to win – what was the trick behind it?

“There’s no trick to it really,” suggested Cuggy.

“Just lots of character, bottle, the will to win and fitness.”

n Match report on Page 79