Spartans lose their rhythm and the points in second half

Blyth Spartans striker Phil Airey. Photo by Bill Broadley
Blyth Spartans striker Phil Airey. Photo by Bill Broadley

AFTER a five-match unbeaten run Blyth Spartans were brought back down to earth on Tuesday evening as a lacklustre second half performance allowed Chorley to comeback from a goal down at half-time to take all three points.

Phil Airey had given the home side the lead on the half hour mark, and it was a lead they took into the interval.

But Chorley came out of the blocks quicker in the second half and in the end deserved to take all three points with a 3-1 win.

Tommy Cassidy’s men can point to a controversial decision just before half-time that saw the referee show a yellow card rather than a red to Chorley defender Andrew Teague when he brought down Craig Farrell as the former Carlisle United striker was in on goal.

However, Spartans can still not use that as an excuse for a poor second half showing.

The home side started the better with left back Joe Kendrick going close twice within the first five minutes.

A loose ball fell to the former Mansfield Town defender 30 yards from goal and he hit an outstanding left foot volley that was dipping and swerving towards the target but was spectacularly saved by Cudworth in the Chorley goal.

Two minutes later and Kendrick tested Cudworth again with a 20-yard free kick that was saved low down by the Magpies keeper.

It took 20 minutes for the visitors to seriously test home keeper Conor Grant, and that came when midfielder Whitham struck a low curler from the edge of the box that the Spartans No. 1 did well to palm away from danger.

Chorley were looking dangerous with plenty of pace and movement, but it would be Spartans who took the lead.

Robbie Dale robbed Magpies full back Mark Ross and broke down the inside left channel where he fired a cross towards the penalty spot that found the on-rushing Airey who crashed a header past Cudworth for his fourth goal for the club.

A minute later and Airey came within a whisker of doubling his tally and his side’s lead.

Straight from the kick-off he stole the ball from Whitham and charged at goal. But his right footed effort from the edge of the box went narrowly wide of the left hand post.

On the brink of half-time came the controversial incident that should have seen the visitors reduced to ten men.

Farrell was played in on goal and was brought down by a clumsy tackle from Teague. As Croft Park waited for the red card, the referee showed a yellow, a decision for which he was booed off as the half-time whistle was blown.

Chorley came out quicker in the second half and within ten minutes had overturned their deficit to lead 2-1.

They equalised as a long ball from Russell caught the Spartans defence napping and Tom Ince got to the ball before Grant, looping it over the Spartans keeper and into the empty net.

It was only three minutes later when the visitors took the lead, and if the first goal was sloppy defending from Spartans the second was one of the highest calibre.

A loose ball feel to Roscoe on the angle of the box and he hit a wonderful right footed volley that curled into the far side of Grant’s net.

A game that seemed all about Spartans was now in the hands of the Magpies.

The contest turned scrappy with the referee having to show cards to players from both sides, and it was not until 20 minutes from time when Spartans looked like getting an equaliser.

Dale curled a ball into the far post that found the head of captain Wayne Buchanan. He headed the ball back to the edge of the six-yard box and Kendrick got up above Cudworth and headed goalwards but Teague cleared off the line.

As the clock ran down Spartans must have had an inkling it was not to be their day when a Kendrick cross found Buchanan free in the box and as he headed across the face of goal there were no Spartans players available to finish from close range.

With five minutes left Chorley sealed the win with a clinical finish from striker Stephenson.

The front man had been a constant menace to the Spartans back line and his performance deserved the goal that duly arrived when he took a cross from Ince, spun his marker Buchanan and calmly rolled past Grant.

Spartans had the last chance as Dale curled a left foot effort from just inside the box that was palmed away by Cudworth and ensured that Gary Flitcroft’s side became the first team since Hednesford Town to take all three points from Spartans.

Spartans man of the match: Jordan Mellish.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick, Hodgson, Buchanan, Mellish, Mason, Hooks, Dale, Farrell, Airey Subs: Vipond, Hunter, Berj, Davis.