Witton Albion 4-1 Blyth Spartans
Help for Heroes Stadium
FA Trophy Qualifying Round
Saturday 29th September
For the second time this season Spartans came away from the Help for Heroes Stadium, home of Witton Albion with nothing to show. On the opening day of the season they could point to a controversial late penalty decision as the reason for the defeat but today there could be no such complaints as they were dumped out of the FA Trophy at the first hurdle. Tommy Cassidy handed a debut to centre back Daryll Donnelly who joined the club on Friday and striker Callum Hassan was given a first start after appearing as a sub in the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Workington. Another new signing made on Friday, Daniel Maguire would start from the bench.
The early part of the game was scrappy as the windy conditions took hold of the game and dictated the tempo more so than any player on either side but when the first chance came it would put the hosts ahead. A break down Spartans right hand side saw winger Daniel Andrews roll the ball to Albion skipper Anthony Sheehan who made no mistake with a well controlled finish from the edge of the box. Five minutes later and a top class save from Conor Grant prevented Spartans going two behind. Andrews hit a free kick from twenty yards that was blocked by the Spartans wall but fell to Sheehan who crashed a volley goalwards. Former Gretna stopper Grant launched himself across his goal and palmed the ball out wide when a second Albion goal seemed certain.
In a statistic that speaks volumes of the Spartans performance it took until the half hour mark for a chance of any note to be created and it was a half one at best. A handball gave Martin Brittain the chance to curl a free kick in from the right hand side and his cross was narrowly diverted away from the on rushing Wayne Buchanan and Callum Hassan by the toes of Albion centre back Paul Booth. Five minutes later and Conor Grant was called into action making another remarkable stop. Spartans failed to clear a cross from Hancock and the loose ball fell to Andrews ten yards from goal, his instinctive effort was brilliantly stopped by Grant who was seemingly the only barrier to the wave of Albion pressure in the opening period. Thanks to Grant the half time whistle saw Spartans go into the changing rooms with only a one goal deficit.
A half time change for Spartans saw Shaun Vipond replace Brittain as Cassidy changed to a 4-3-3 formation in order to try and put the home side under pressure. However it was again all about the home side as they dominated from the restart. A warning shot was fired at Spartans when a superb twenty five yard free kick from Andrews smacked against the Spartans post and rebounded to safety. Just after the hour there was to be no reprieve as Albion deservedly doubled their lead. A long ball forward found striker Ashley Stott on the left wing, he held the ball up long enough to give left back Mathew Wood time to break inside the inside channel. Stott played an inch perfect pass to the defender and he produced a classy finish from the angle with the outside of his left foot.
An inspired substitution from Albion boss Brian Pritchard saw the home side take the game away from Spartans. Striker Shaun Tuck replaced Stott midway through the second period and it was a change that paid immediate dividends. A long ball forward caught the wind and made life difficult for Grant in the Spartans net. The extra pace on the ball meant the keeper couldn’t hang on and Tuck stole the ball and went past Grant before coolly finishing past Buchanan on the line. Darryll Donnelly was having a fairly solid start to life in a Spartans shirt and he would play a key role in the last ten minutes clearing two efforts off the line from Gardner and Hancock before playing a key role in a late Spartans goal.
As the clock ticked past the ninety minute mark a Neal Hooks cross to the back post found Donnelly who headed goalwards but the ball deflected of Callum Hassan’s back and into the net. No route back for Spartans as the game was really over a long time before Hassan’s maiden goal for the club. As if to rub salt into already open wounds the hosts would get a fourth as a ball into the Spartans box only just narrowly avoided Shaun Utterson and ran to an unmarked Tuck who rolled the ball calmly past Grant to cap a miserable day Tommy Cassidy’s side.
Spartans Man of the Match: Tom Berj
Witton Albion: Cooper, Gardner, Wood, Harrison, Booth, Sheehan, Hancock, Glover, Stott, Fallon, Andrews Subs: Tuck, Cross, Woolley, Buchan, Clayton Goalscorers Sheehan 16, Wood 63, Tuck 69 and 90+3
Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Hodgson, Berj, Buchanan, Donnelly, Mason, Brittain, Hooks, Farrell, HassanSubs: Vipond, Maguire, Turnbull, Hunter Goalscorer: Hassan 90+1