Spartans fail to take chance to regain top spot

Blyth Spartans striker Michael Richardson. Picture by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans striker Michael Richardson. Picture by Bill Broadley

Blyth Spartans travelled to Merseyside on Saturday and came away empty handed after a 2-1 defeat to Skelmersdale.

And Spartans missed thew chance to regain top spot after losing it to midweek winners Nantwich, who also lost on Saturday.

Blyth opened brightly with Dan Maguire testing home keeper Martin Fearon with a low drive in the opening minute.

The hosts countered immediately when Sam Staunton Walker drove over the bar from 20 yards.

A little against the run of the early play, Blyth took the lead when Matty Wade found the overlapping Andrew Cartwright on the right and the full back crossed first time low and hard into the box where Michael Richardson was on hand to steer the ball past Fearon from six yards.

Within minutes Cartwright was again causing consternation for Skelmersdale, storming into the penalty area but he was dispossessed by a timely tackle by Robert McIntosh.

The game then began to swing in Sklemersdale’s favour, in particular with a string of dangerous crosses from the left wing.

A Luke Wall cross went over Fabian Otte in the Blyth goal but Chris Almond could only head wide. An Ince cross was headed clear but fell to Gerard Kinsella who volleyed narrowly wide of the target. Kinsella came close again within minutes, this time with Otte diving sharply to palm away his long-range effort.

However, the pressure told when on 25 minutes a corner from the left was headed home with some ease by centre back Tony Rendell to level the scores.

Danger man Kinsella again shot from distance and Otte watched, relieved, as it went out for a goal kick.

However the Skelmersdale midfielder hit the target after 35 minutes with a stunning 18-yard finish which Otte had no chance of saving.

Blyth responded within a minute with Maguire forcing Fearon to save low to his left, and when Richardson produced a surging run in to the six-yard box, Fearon was there again to smother smartly.

In the final minutes of the half Robert Dale had a shot blocked and Alex Nicholson forced Fearon to come up with his best save of the game to date.

Spartans were straight on to the front foot after the break when Maguire found himself with only Fearon to beat, but the keeper brilliantly palmed away his drive.

The hosts had a great chance to then extend their lead when an Ince cross just eluded Staunton Turner at the back post. This was effectively the last which was seen from Skelmersdale in the game as an attacking force. Blyth grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck pouring forward at every opportunity.

Dale was replaced by Aaron Wearmouth after 54 minutes due to a hip injury.

Nicholson shot over from 30 yards before Wearmouth found Cartwright in the penalty box but he could not make a good contact and Fearon saved.

Wearmouth himself, Maguire, Damen Mullen and Shaun Reid all had shots blocked by the dogged Skelmersdale defenders.

With six minutes remaining Cartwright came close and a Reid header was safely clutched by Fearon. Then a clever ball from Richardson was stroked marginally too far ahead of Maguire on the edge of the six-yard box.

Despite all their pressure Blyth were ultimately unable to make their possession count.

Blyth Spartans: F Otte, A Cartwright, J Watson, D Morse, R Hutchinson, S Turnbull, A Nicholson (S Reid 74), M Richardson, D Maguire, M Wade (D Mullen 70), R Dale (A Wearmouth 54). Subs not used: D Parker, P Robinson.

Attendance: 248.