Spartans performance could be best summed up by former manager Alun Armstorng who said “Blyth ran their socks off, you have to give them massive credit as they never stopped but in saying that for the amount of the ball they had, I think Tommy (Taylor) made one save? He hasn’t even got his elbows dirty so we never looked in any danger of losing the game we just looked like we were never going to score until that (the wonder goal) happened”.
Before the game it was likely Alex Nicholson would be missing, who’s been battling injury for a little while now. Danny Barlow has a fractured collarbone and of course Toby is still out for a little while longer yet. That was topped off however as a few hours before kick off it leaked out that Lewis McNall had a knock and was going to miss the game, leaving Cedric Main as our key point of attack.
Fents had the lads set up in the familiar 5-3-2 formation with Bodenham and sometimes Bud’s tasked with keeping the league’s top scorer Mark Beck at bay.
Given Darlo’s form, our form, our record away at Darlo and in fact our record against Darlington in general most supporters weren’t confident going into the game but in the first 10 min’s Blyth were by far the better team. Bodenham had Beck under control when Darlo did come forward and the defence was able hold firm and clear away Darlo’s first few crosses with complete ease.
Blyth’s first chance came when Jordan Hickey made a brief run through the middle of the park and hit a shot that went wide of Tommy Taylor’s goal. Kane Felix returned the favour just after with a poor shot that drifted wide of the goal.
Spartans remained in control for the next few phases of the game but for the most part it was a lot of backwards and sideways passes with the lads having space to move the ball down the wings but unable to push through the middle and work the ball into the box. That was until RWB Michael Richardson found himself on the left of the pitch cutting in on his right foot and firing a shot that went up and over the bar.
Blyth remained in control but again just didn’t create many chances or really get any shots away. Near half time Deverdics fired a corner over to the back post that ended up with Hickey but his shot was hit first time and went well over the bar. Just after that Elsdon brought the ball forward through the middle and picked out Cedirc Main in box but his shot was saved by Taylor.
The game looked like it might open up right before half time with a brief spell of box-to-box action with counter attacks opening up for both teams.
As the second half began though Darlington grew into the game and looked like if anyone would score it would be them as the half went on. On about the 60 min’s mark former Spartan Jarrett Rivers received the ball on the left, and fed in former Spartan Jack Lambert but his shot went over.
Michael Richardson made a run down the right flank and drew a foul right on the edge of the box but his cross into the box was headed away and came to nothing.
Blyth brought Cedric Main off soon after and replaced him with Matty Cornish, who seemed to be playing a false nine role. Not long after that though Ben Hedley broke down Darlington’s right hand side to swing a cross in that was missed by the Blyth defender but thankfully Junior Mondal missed the cross as well for the ball to go out of play.
In the 78th min Josh Gillies came on in place of JJ O’Donnell, who admittedly hadn’t been able to put his mark on the game. A moment later though the net broke after Matty Cornish hit the side netting. It was far from the most powerful shot in the world but it still managed to break it. After 10 minutes, the net was fixed and back in action.
From that point on though the only team that seemed like they’d grab a late winner would be the hosts. It looked like fate might be going Blyth’s way though as Alex Mitchell made a brilliant point blank save from Mondal in the 88th min to keep Blyth in the game.
Sadly though, we wouldn’t be in the game for long. As former Spartan loanee Ben Liddle came I remarked to one of our media lads “Christ he was shite when he played for us, but watch him go and score the neet” and of course he did! A cross was headed away by Matty Elsdon into the path of Liddle who’d found some space and smashed a left footed volley into the far side of the net. Blyth were unable to mount a response and it finished 1-0 to Darlington.
The gaffer said after the game “Its a cruel game at times. Saturday we deserved to get beat and we deserved to get beat comfortably, we weren’t good enough but today we didn’t deserve to get beat. Did we do enough to win it? Possibly not as we weren’t clinical enough, we weren’t ruthless enough in the final third but in-between the boxes we played some good stuff and created some good situations”.
Green Army MOTM – Jordan Hickey.
Jordan was outstanding throughout the game. Ran about the pitch closing players down and throwing in some great tackles. Phenomenal attitude from him.
Match entertainment – 6.5/10
A decent score considering we didn’t really have many clear cut chances.