So, it all comes down to this. Spartans are required to match or better Farsley Celtic’s results in order to beat the drop on the final day of the season for the second year on the bounce however, Farsley take on midtable Buxton at home who have nothing to play for and Spartans of course face Brackley Town, who will be gunning for 3rd place.

Farsley Celtic of course aren’t guaranteed a win over Buxton, having only picked up 2 wins in their last 15 games. Only Bishop’s Stortford have scored less goals than Farsley this season, who are tied with Banbury United as the 2nd lowest scorers in the National League North.

That being said, Buxton are guaranteed to be finishing in at least 14th place and quite literally having nothing to play for come Saturday. It’s also manager Craig Elliot’s last game in charge of the club, so you’d expect a few players will go into the game a tad half arsed, a bit like Hereford did last year at Croft Park. Then again, Buxton do have one of the better away records in the league.

The only other factor to take into consideration is Buxton’s midweek match in the Derbyshire Senior Cup final. They had a strong squad out and won 5-0, whereas Farsley Celtic have had their feet up all week, so to speak.

Brackley Town come into this one in red hot form, having just beaten play off chasing Chester City and Boston United as well as league champions Tamworth. Come Saturday it would have been 2 months since they lost a game of football, having gone unbeaten in their last 11 league games. Brackley currently occupy 3rd place and if they’re still there come 5pm on Saturday – they’ll get a bye and skip the play-off quarter finals next Wednesday night, advancing straight into the semi finals next Saturday.

The away side will begin the game with the 2nd best defensive record in the league, with goalkeeper Danny Lewis having kept 17 clean sheets in his 42 games this season. The veteran keeper is obviously one of the best around at this level of football. A great shot stopper with brilliant reflex’s for his age who’s also canny in air, JJ Hooper and and co will need to be at their best to beat him. In front of him he should have a solid centre back pairing, which includes club captain Gareth Dean. The 34 year old is slower than Soulsby in a pub quiz but built like a brick shithouse. Dominant and aggressive in the air, he’s the sort to happily give someone a kicking when required.

He should be joined at centre back by Alex Gudger, who’s very much like his partner in crime – though a bit younger and quicker while being slightly better on the ball. Midfielder Shep Murombedzi will be a handful as well. Capable of playing in the centre of midfield and on the wing, he’s a proper playmaker who can pick a pass and still put a foot in when required.

Leading the line for Brackley Town will be Danny Newton. With 17 goals this season, he’s the league’s 3rd top scorer thus far. A striker who likes to play off the shoulder of a defender, Danny is a canny finisher with a great work rate who’s rather good on the ball. Not only will he cause problems himself, he’ll be more than capable of bringing others into play when Brackley are on the attack. Connor Hall will be another headache up top for Blyth. Joining on loan from Solihull Moors earlier in the season after a few years at Chorley, Connor has netted 9 times across 20 games since arriving – playing up top and on either wing. A natural born finisher who can cut in from either flank, he’ll be a real handful.

Blyth Team News

Spartans go into this one with some of the worst form in the league, with only the relegated trio of teams ranking lower than us in the form table. Thus far in 2024 we’ve only picked up 1 win at Croft Park.

Thankfully for us, striker JJ Hooper is set to be back in the line-up for this one after recovering from a hamstring problem. Goalkeeper Alex Mitchell is also set to be back in the team following his 21 days out after a concussion. Malakai Reeve and Joe Oliver both returned to the side last week and will be in contention for a start this weekend. Will McGowan also served his suspension last weekend, so he’ll presumably be back in the side come Saturday.

JJ O’Donnell, Harry Gardiner and Michael Liddle are already out of Saturday’s game, and it’s expected that Jordan Cook may miss the game after getting a knock the other week. Midfielder Harry Arnison has been missing for sometime now as well, so I’d presume he’ll be missing this one as well.

Opposition View

Ahead of the biggest game of the season, we spoke to Brackley fan Theo Hook for his views on their season so far.

We’ve had a very up and down season but it seems like we have finally found the perfect formula to win games. Saturday is a must win game for us. to confirm top 3 in play offs, but we’re expecting a very tough test which could lead to Blyth going down unfortunately. Morgan Roberts is the one to look out for who’s on amazing form with Danny Newton also leading the attack. Momentum is with us and hopefully we can end the 7 year play offs curse.

Fan Info

Hopefully with no Newcastle United game on, we’ll be attracting a big crowd. So as ever we’d recommend buying your tickets online to try and ease congestion at the gates and we’d recommend arriving early. You can purchase tickets online here.

This game will also be the final time Supporter’s Club will be running the club store on a matchday, and it’ll likely be your last chance to buy any shirts and other merchandise for a short while as the online store closes after Saturday. So if you’ve been meaning to get a grab a shirt or a jacket, now is your chance.

Pieface will also be in the clubhouse selling Shy’s Pies, for what will likely be the final time. We’ll only have around 50 ordered in, so if you’re after one you’ll have to be quick!

The now regular burger van will also be in it’s usual spot opposite the shop. The other week I actually tried it for the first time and did grab a nacho cheese burger, which was absolutely belta.

Ref Watch

Saturday’s referee will be Richard Holmes, who’s not exactly the most popular referee at this level of football. Last year he missed a blatant handball in a game against Darlington and Boston United. So far this season he’s only been in charge of 5 games, dishing out 16 yellow cards in the process. To make things worse, the linesman (Stephen Birkett) who ruled out Darlington’s goal last month that was rather clearly over the line, will be running the line at Croft Park this weekend. Joys.

Betting Preview

Surprisingly, the odds aren’t that bad given both team’s form and league position going into this one. Naturally, Brackley should be favourites here. Annoyingly, they’ve actually been decent on the road this season – especially since the turn of the year.

If Blyth are to pick up the win here, the lads NEED to be at their best come Saturday. Anything less than that won’t be enough, as we simply cannot rely on Buxton getting a result against Farsley, and Brackley will no doubt be one of the most difficult teams we’d have come up against at Croft Park this season.

As a prediction, my head says a draw ins. Rather competitive game. But my heart says last minute winner for Spartans, the clubhouse rocking and the Masons being utter carnage after.