Spartans suffer third consecutive single goal defeat

A Kenny Strickland free kick on the stroke of half-time sent Blyth Spartans to their third single goal defeat in a week at top of the table Skelmersdale United.

But much of the post-match talk from Tuesday evening’s defeat was around a number of contentious decisions by referee Kevin Sarsfield.

The official sent off Spartans right back Alex Nicholson in the first ten minutes for a professional foul, to the surprise of many inside the ground as there seemed to be cover.

However, he evened things up with another debatable decision by showing a second yellow card to United defender Bodie.

He also produced a controversial decision for the winning goal as Nathan Buddle seemed to have taken the ball for the free kick that led to Kenny Strickland’s 44th minute goal.

The first action of the half was the red card for the unfortunate Nicholson.

A ball was fed into Skem striker Mitchley on the edge of the box and he went down under minimal contact from the Spartans right back and fell into the area.

Referee Sarsfield pointed to the spot and after consulting with his assistant dismissed Nicholson. Mitchley stepped up to take the spot kick but struck the right hand upright.

Perhaps galvanised by a sense of injustice, Spartans had arguably their best period of the game.

Jarrett Rivers and Robbie Dale were getting some joy up front and looking dangerous, with the first real chance for Spartans falling to the latter.

Chris Bell sent in a cross from the right that was met by the head of Dale but he could only send his effort narrowly over the bar.

The referee took centre stage again with just under ten minutes of the first half remaining.

Rivers beat Bodie on the left hand touchline and was brought down by the Skem defender. A second yellow card was produced and Bodie was sent down the tunnel to even things up.

With a minute to go until the break there was a sucker punch for a brave Spartans side.

Buddle challenged with Tom Ince and seemed to take the ball but a free kick was awarded 20 yards from goal. The poor decision should not take away from a wonderful free kick by Kenny Strickland as he curled fantastic shot into the top left hand corner of the Spartans net.

The first chance of the second period fell to Skem as Mitchley headed a cross just wide of the far post as he rose to meet a Wylie cross from the right.

The striker had another chance four minutes later as he pounced on a loose ball in the area after Jeffries had denied McCarthy with a brave block. Mitchley looked set to score but was blocked by a last ditch challenge by Ian Watson.

From the resulting corner, Ince headed against the bar from close range.

Spartans could and maybe should have been level with 15 minutes remaining as Watson burst into the area after being played in by Dale but was denied by the advancing Fearon.

That led to a counter attack by the hosts and McCarthy was played in on goal but could only fire over the bar from the edge of the box.

The final chance of the game fell to Spartans as left back Watson released the ever lively Rivers into the left hand side of the area. The winger took one touch before smashing a low drive at goal that was saved by the feet of Fearon.

Despite the closing stages being played at a frantic pace, neither side created much of note and Spartans can look back on a much improved performance, but one that ultimately did not get the result it deserved.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, J Watson, Buddle, I Watson, Hooks, Hutchinson (Sayer 79), Bell, Dale, Rivers, Wearmouth (Robinson 61). Subs not used: Cummings, Mullen, Maguire.

Attendance: 248.