Spartans are back to winning ways again

Blyth Spartans 2 Burscough 1

BLYTH, facing a battle to avoid the third bottom relegation play-off spot in the UniBond League Premier Division, entertained FA Trophy semi finalists Burscough at Croft Park.

A 5-1 midweek defeat at Bradford Park Avenue made it just five points fromi the last 27 for the struggling Spartans. Striker Glen Robson missed the game due to a six-match ban following his fifth red card of the campaign.

The visitors forced the first corner of the contest in the fourth-minute but the flag-kick taken by John Lawless was headed confidently away by Richard Foster. The ball was immediately launched downfield where Steven Stewart nipped in between defender Carl Macauley and Matthew Taylor to lob the bail over the keeper to give Byth the lead in the fifth-minute.

Burscouh squandered a great chance to draw level within two-minutes when Lawless delivered a teasing cross towards the unmarked Gary Martindale but his glancing header drifted harmlessly wide of the left-hand post.

Craig Perry tried his luck from 25 yards but his right-foot shot went well wide of the target as Blyth went searching for the crucial second goal.

When the Merseysiders pressed again, young defender Ian Dixon made a vital headed clearance and then Lawless cut inside only to see his powerful shot charged down and eventually cleared to safety. A foul by McMahon on Macauley led to Burscough grabbing an equaliser in the 29th minute. John Norman's setpiece was met perfectly by Peter Wright whose close-range diving header beat Phil Naisbett in the home goal.

The Blyth keeper produced a fine save to keep his side in the game six minutes later when he clawed away Joe Taylor's flick-on from another dangerous Lawless cross.

The home side enjoyed a brief spell of pressure in the closing stages of the first period as Stewart whipped in a left-hand cross towards player-manager Paul Baker but former Aston Villa defender Shaun Teale got in first to head clear. Blyth had generally lost their shape as the half progressed but nevertheless the two sides went in level at the halfway stage.

Perry had the first chance of the second period but he crashed a shot over the bar after being set up by Stewart's astute pass. Stewart changed the direction of play with a cross field ball to find Andy Martin in time and space but the fullback rifled in a shot from distance which went harmlessly wide Martin was cautioned in the 56th minute for a foul on Burscough's midileld schemer Mark Byrne but Norman's free-kick was dealt with by the Spartans rearguard.

There was further danger for the home side when Byrne clipped in a low cross from the right bye-line across the face of goal but no one was able to apply the finishing touch.

McMahon had his name taken a minute later before Wright headed narrowly wide for the visitors from close range with Naisbett struggling.

Chances were at a premium in a scrappy second half and player-manager Baker was replaced by Chris Rutter in the 58th minute in an attempt to liven things up.

Martin's looping header was easily gathered by Taylor before Spartans took the lead for the second time in the match in the 74th minute with Stewart grabbing his fourth goal of the campaign.

Little's corner was only partially cleared by the visitors defence and the ball dropped to Stewart who drilled home from six yards out.

Stewart then desperately came close to a hat-trick four minutes later when he raced clear from the halfway line but was denied by Taylor as he was about to round the keeper.

Forthcoming fixtures include:

Saturday, March 29, Frickley Athletic, away, kick off 3pm;

Tuesday, April 1, Accrington Stanley, home, kick off 7.45pm.