Blyth Spartans’ unbeaten run came to an end at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night where they were defeated 2-1 by promotion favourite’s Alfreton Town.
Prior to the match, Blyth had gone eight games without a loss in all competitions and were on course to make it nine when Paul Brayson’s second half penalty cancelled out the home side’s 23rd minute opener, before an unfortunate own goal by Alan White (pictured left), on his full debut, condemned the Spartans to their first league defeat in over a month.
The home side began the game in the ascendancy and put considerable pressure on the visitors before they found the breakthrough at the midway point of the first half.
Alfreton’s Liam Hearn gave Blyth an early warning when he burst in to the box only to drag his shot wide of Dan Lowson’s far upright.
Lowson was then forced to make a save to deny Nathan Arnold, who struck a fierce shot from close range before Lowson came to Blyth’s rescue again by turning a Jake Moult effort round the post.
On 23 minutes Laurie Wilson played a long diagonal pass to Anthony Howell, who had time and space in the Spartans area to control the ball on his chest and finish neatly past Lowson, to give the hosts a deserved lead as Blyth players appealed in vain for an offside flag.
The response from the away side was good and they had the better of the play for the remainder of the half.
Paul Brayson had a strike from 25 yards which skipped along the wet surface, into the grasp of Alfreton goalkeeper, Chris Mackenzie.
Then excellent link up play between Neal Hooks and Nicky Deverdics provided Brayson with another opportunity, which Mackenzie could only palm to Michael Tait, who saw his shot blocked by Theo Streete.
Brayson was involved again, in Blyth’s next attack, when his clever back heel found Stephen Turnbull, who danced around Garner, only for his low shot to be saved by Mackenzie.
Following a slow start, Blyth had finished the half strongly and Mick Tait would have been encouraged with his side’s display after falling behind.
There was an early scare for Spartans after the break as Jake Moult looked to have doubled Alfreton’s advantage with a header, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.
Blyth’s central midfielder Neal Hooks was called in to defensive duty on two occasions when he first blocked an effort from Moult and then got in the way of a strike by Streete as the home side went in search of a second goal.
The away side were given a chance to get back on level terms from the penalty spot when Alfreton’s goal scorer Anthony Howell was adjudged to have fouled Michael Tait in the box. And the Blue Square Bet North’s leading marksman, Paul Brayson (pictured right), duly obliged by sending Mackenzie the wrong way from twelve yards, to score his 18th goal of the season.
Blyth looked dangerous after finding the equaliser and they almost went ahead ten minutes from time in the best move of the game. O’Mahoney found Groves who made a terrific overlapping run down the right to put a cross in for Brayson with the striker helping the ball on for Turnbull but unfortunately his shot was blocked at close range by Laurie Wilson.
Alfreton’s winner came in the 82nd minute when Howell crossed in from the left and Blyth’s Alan White headed into his own net at the near post.
It was a very disappointing finale to a game which Blyth had worked so hard to get back in to.
Alfreton Town: Mackenzie, L. Wilson, Franklin, Streete, Garner, M. Wilson, Moult, Arnold (Clayton), Howell, Hearn, Hall
Blyth Spartans: Lowson, Groves, Cave, Tait, Swailes, White, Hooks, Turnbull (Gray), Brayson, Deverdics, O’Mahoney
Referee: A Holmes.