Spartans lack spark in losing unbeaten record

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A lacklustre performance from Blyth Spartans saw them surrender their unbeaten record for 2014 and suffer a first home league defeat since October 26.

A single goal was enough for Buxton to complete the league double over them.

A lethargic first half was only slightly bettered by both sides in the second period as the Croft Park faithful suffered a game that was low on entertainment and high in frustration.

Tom Wade stuck with the starting line-up from the previous Saturday’s draw at Stafford Rangers with the only change coming on the bench with Ryan Cummings replacing Shaun Utterson.

Ash Davis continued his comeback from his leg fracture alongside Cummings as one of Spartans’ replacements.

The opening 20 minutes gave notice of what was to follow with neither side creating anything of note, although it did show that the visitors were a hard-working and direct outfit.

They finally had the first chance on 25 minutes as Joe Kendrick misjudged a cross-field pass from Jamie Green that allowed Buxton top scorer Lee Morris in on goal but the normally prolific striker dragged a shot well wide of the far post.

A turgid first half continued and again it was the visitors who had the only real chances, although the next one did not arrive until the closing stages of a half that will be easily forgotten by both sets of supporters.

Josh Davies found a yard of space on the edge of the Spartans area but curled a right foot effort just wide of Conor Grant’s right hand post.

There was more action in the opening ten minutes of the second half with both sides going close and a penalty shout turned down.

Those appeals were from Spartans as a long ball from Paul Robinson bounced in the area amongst appeals for a handball by Buxton defender Ash Palmer, but their appeals were waved away.

Minutes later Blyth were grateful for the reflexes of Grant as the impressive Morris released his strike partner Liam Hardy in behind the defence, but Grant made a smart stop at his near post after narrowing the angle well.

A sad reflection of a poor display from Wade’s side was the fact that they did not test veteran keeper Andy Warrington until the 55th minute as Arran Wearmouth hit a speculative effort which the former York City number one saved easily at his near post.

Buxton deservedly took the lead just before the hour mark with a clinical finish from substitute Alistair Taylor.

A pass inside Kendrick from Davies released Taylor into the area and he crashed an effort across goal and inside the far post, leaving Grant with no chance.

With Davis on from the bench, Blyth tried to create chances but were constantly frustrated by a dogged and disciplined performance by the visitors, led by a rock solid performance by centre back Ash Palmer.

When Spartans did get in behind them, Warrington produced a match-winning stop to deny Dan Maguire after the forward latched on to a long pass from Nathan Buddle.

The last 15 minutes saw plenty of Spartans possession without any real chances as Robbie Dale found some space on the left hand side of the visitors area but as he chose to shoot rather than cross, any chances of a point went with it.

The winger’s right footed effort going wide of the far post and as the whistle went a minute later Spartans began to reflect on a poor performance, something the Green Army have not seen for a number of months.

Despite the defeat Spartans only dropped one place to seventh in the league with FC United of Manchester leap-frogging them in the table.

In an increasingly intriguing play-off chase, Spartans, FC United and Ashton United all sit on 56 points, although both the Uniteds have games in hand on Tom Wade’s side.

Spartans’ man of the match was Nathan Buddle.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Watson (Hubbard 88), Parker, Buddle, Kendrick, Hooks, Robinson, Wade (Horner 77), Dale, Maguire, Wearmouth (Davis 68) Subs not used: Purewal, Cummings.

Attendance: 395.