Rovers exit cup, but improved performance
Blyth Spartans Res 2-0 Spittal Rovers
Two well-taken second-half strikes from Blyth’s Will Cook and Jonathon McGeary were enough to see off a much-improved Rovers, whose purposeful, determined approach to this cup tie was evident from the off, frustrating their hosts for long periods in the process.
As expected, Spartans enjoyed large amounts of possession and swarmed forward at every opportunity. Spittal lined up in a 4-5-1 that had Connor Lough at the tip and it counteracted their opponents’ attacking threat effectively. Jordan Laidler, who had dropped down from the first team for the afternoon, pulled the strings for the green and whites, his vision and passing ability proving a real hindrance to Spittal’s defence. A defence-splitting pass from the number 10 soon had Connor Jardine scampering down the right, but after a superb save from Chris Stanwix, he blasted his rebound into the side netting.
Stanwix, returning between the sticks for what was only his second game in a year, was in fine form and came to his side’s aid all afternoon. He got a toe end to Ben Senior’s effort after another perfectly weighted through ball, before tipping one from distance around his post. Blyth also used their left flank well, but numerous balls in the box were dealt with efficiently in the air by Andrew Hastie, Ben Fairbairn and Richard Baxendale.
A couple of half chances on the counter attack almost saw Spittal get their noses in front. Lough nodded a deep free kick into the danger area, only for it to be hooked clear before Kyle Jeffrey could get to it. Fairbairn then sent a 25-yard free kick goalwards which called Spartans stopper Curtis Richardson into action. He then saved from Luke Strangeways at a tight angle before a dangerously whipped-in corner from the same player was headed off target by Rovers skipper Paul Wood.
Further chances also fell to Blyth before the interval, with Jardine breaking the offside trap only to see his delicate lob bounce off Stanwix’s crossbar. Another chance was then squandered by Spartans, a free header glanced wide by Callum Uddgren.
The game seemed to open up a bit after the interval with the pace and trickery of Strangeways in particular proving a real problem to Spartans as the half developed.
It was the home side who were to break the deadlock, however, via Laidler’s purposeful pinged pass – Cook chesting the ball down before firing a powerful half-volley past the sprawling Stanwix. This minor setback did not deter Spittal though, and they went in search of an equaliser almost immediately.
Brian Blackburn’s threaded ball sent Strangeways clear but he saw Richardson save his shot down low before another surge forward saw the winger rattle the woodwork with a thunderous drive.
With tiredness now creeping in, good work down the right effectively put the game to bed for the hosts, a cut back finding substitute Mcgeary who connected to send a swirling shot into the top corner from just inside the box. Fellow replacement John Harper then rounded Stanwix superbly, but could only hit the side netting as the angle worked against him.
Fairbairn missed a glorious chance at the other end, fluffing his shot from 10 yards out after good work on the wing. The shot evaded Richardson but was cleared off the line.