Spartans end season as it started – a defeat in Cheshire

A disappointing season for Blyth Spartans turned full circle with 2-1 final day defeat at Nantwich Town on Saturday.

Just as they had on the opening day when they travelled to Cheshire to play Witton Albion, they returned to Northumberland empty handed.

Spartans season was summed up by the defeat at the Weaver Stadium.

There was controversy, injuries, a little bit of hope, missed chances, patches of good football, a self inflicted defeat and a missed penalty.

The first controversial incident occurred in the seventh minute as a long ball out of the Dabbers defence released winger Josh Lane in the inside right channel.

He tried to chip over the advancing Mark Cook but the ball struck the hand of the Spartans keeper as he came out of the box.

Referee Joe Clark gave a free kick and showed only a yellow card to Cook. From the resultant free kick Cook tipped over a vicious in-swinger by Joe Guest.

Phil Airey created two good openings for Jordan Mellish but his headers missed the target.

On 35 minutes Spartans had their best chance of the game as Airey pinged a cross field ball into the box that found Tom Berj. The little midfielder threw himself at the ball but saw Jon Brain push his diving header to safety.

With ten minutes to go to the break the home side stepped up their efforts and took the lead, however, it was a goal that was somewhat controversial.

Left back Zack Foster broke down the left, beating Airey but running the ball out of play. But the assistant kept the flag down as everyone stopped expecting a throw-in to be awarded. Foster broke into the left side of the Spartans area and his low cross found the unmarked Harry Clayton who slotted home from six yards out.

Despite playing into the wind second half, Spartans started on top and again Airey’s corner kicks were causing major problems.

His cross to the penalty spot found Spartans captain Wayne Buchanan who looped a header goalwards but Dabbers substitute Hudson cleared off the line.

A minute later Richie Slaughter’s long ball to the edge of the box was flicked on by Craig Hubbard. The ball fell to Joe Kendrick who lopped an effort over his former Newcastle United academy team-mate Brain but the ball went just over the bar.

The home side had their first chance of the second period and really should have extended their lead.

A Lane corner found Dabbers captain Charles Raglan who headed again the near post and Spartans somehow cleraed to safety.

That miss cost the hosts dear just two minutes later as Andy Jennings was played through on goal and was clipped by Brain. A spot kick was awarded and Airey stepped up to take. He struck the ball well down the middle but Brain managed to keep it out, meaning Spartans have failed to convert eight of their 16 penalties this season.

The rebound found its way to Jennings who crashed home ten yards despite the best efforts of the home defence.

But Spartans were only on even terms for four minutes.

Hudson broke forward from his left back position and fired a low cross into the area that Mellish unfortunately sliced into his own net, the deflection decieving Cook at his near post.

The home side nearly extended their lead with 15 minutes left as Joe Guest smashed an effort from all of 25 yards that bounced just past Cook’s near post.

Spartans’ final chance of the game fell to their player of the season Dan Maguire as he was released in on goal but his low shot was parried by Brain.

The ball ran across goal but right back Cole managed to clear just before Jennings had the chance to gain a deserved equaliser for his side.

After making two subs and seeing Airey go down injured, Tom Wade was forced to throw keeper Conor Grant on in an outfield position with his other two substitutes, Robbie Dale and Lee Mason, carrying knocks.

The last five minutes of the game fizzled out without incident and Spartans ended their season with a defeat, meaning they finished 16th in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.

Whilst many will go away for their summer breaks the hard work carries on for Wade as he looks to rebuild Spartans and improve on the performance this season.

Blyth Spartans: Cook, Airey (Grant 87), Kendrick, Mellish (Donnelly 63), Buchanan, Slaughter, Hubbard (Mullen 76), Hooks, Maguire, Jennings, Berj Subs not used: Mason.

Attendance: 375.