A brace from recent loan recruit Jake Beesley made it back-to-back victories for a Bradford (Park Avenue) side riding high on a wave of confidence.
Beesley arrived on a season-long loan from Salford City prior to Bradford’s final pre-season friendly, and fired his new club to an impressive victory with two cool finishes.
An early error from Luca Havern allowed Dan Maguire to get in behind the Bradford defence early on, but after pulling back to the edge of the box, could only watch as communication broke down between Jamie Holmes and Kieran Green. The former’s shot was delayed and subsequently blocked by Shane Killock.
The hosts did threaten in the opening exchanges and Conor Branson received an early booking after clipping the legs of an advancing Holmes in the 9th minute.
Despite signs of attacking potency from Alun Armstrong’s Spartans, it was Bradford that took the lead when Beesley rounded Peter Jameson and slotted into a vacated net.
The goal seemed to light a spark in Bradford, who began to ask more questions of a Blyth backline that proved to be prone to lapses in concentration.
Beesley wriggled away from Nathan Buddle before nodding into the path of Nicky Wroe, who lost his footing at the crucial moment and saw his tame effort collected by Jameson.
When Blyth did advance forward, they failed to maintain composure in front of goal and Jarrett Rivers fired his effort straight into the clutches of Steven Drench after finding space on the right-hand side of the 18-yard box.
Robbie Dale, making his 601st appearance for the Spartans, won a free-kick in a dangerous area after being felled by Chris Dawson but drove his effort into the wall.
Connor Oliver took the next free-kick that was won moments later, but Drench held his dipping strike.
Dawson, operating at the front of Bradford’s midfield three, was a constant thorn in Blyth’s side and cut the hosts open with a defence-splitting pass that found Nicky Clee. Clee’s low-driven effort, however, was beaten away by Jameson.
Beesley eluded his marker to run in behind Blyth’s defence when the game reached the half-hour mark and looked to round Jameson again. Despite leaving defenders in his wake, Beesley couldn’t beat Jameson this time and was shepherded wide before the goalkeeper won possession with a slide tackle.
As half-time approached, Blyth enjoyed some opportunities of their own and Dan Maguire raced through on goal after Havern misjudged a hopeful punt forward. Despite having just the goalkeeper to beat, Maguire fired wide to the frustration of the Blyth supporters.
A clearance from Wroe was then badly misjudged by Sean Reid, allowing Beesley to race through on goal in similar fashion to how Maguire had moments earlier. The forward, however, couldn’t add to his tally and rifled wide.
With a minute remaining until the half-time whistle, Havern was forced to make a crucial block on the line to prevent a powerful effort from Rivers nestling in the bottom corner.
HALF-TIME: Blyth Spartans 0-1 Bradford (Park Avenue)
The hosts emerged with a heightened sense of urgency after the break, and Bradford were forced to weather an early storm. Michael Liddle’s strike took a deflection off Maguire and changed the direction of the ball, forcing Drench to be alert and scramble across to save.
The Bradford stopper then pulled off another magnificent save, denying Holmes by tipping his thunderous effort over the crossbar.
After a snapped corner flag caused a brief stoppage, the action was resumed and Blyth continued to pile pressure on Bradford. A series of efforts on goal, however, were blocked as the visitors defended with admirable resilience.
A catalogue of errors from Blyth’s defence enabled the tide to turn in Bradford’s favour, and Beesley saw a well-struck effort hooked off the line after Buddle misjudged a Killock clearance.
After a brief spell of Bradford dominance enabled by sloppy Blyth defending, momentum shifted once again and Mark Bower’s side returned to the back foot for the final fifteen minutes.
Drench was forced to scurry across his line and thwart Liddle, who tested the goalkeeper with a series of long-range efforts from the left.
Midfielder Jamie Spencer entered the fray for Bradford in the 84th minute, providing a much-needed injection of energy. He registered an assist after just a minute on the pitch, drilling in a cross from the left and finding Beesley, who poked home.
Blyth produced a rapid response as Reid stooped to meet a delivery from the left and steered a header past the outstretched glove of Drench.
As Blyth bodies piled forward, Bradford had to defend with desperation. Drench was able to send the ball deep into the hosts’ half with a goal-kick when Bradley Fewster nodded over from an Adam Wrightson cross, and it proved to be the end of the late onslaught.
The Yorkshire side will be keen to continue their excellent start to the season when they visit Leamington on Saturday.
FULL-TIME: Blyth Spartans 1-2 Bradford (Park Avenue)
Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Nicholson, Liddle, Green, Buddle, Reid, Rivers (Wrightson 86′), Oliver, Maguire, Holmes (Fewster 90′), Dale (c).
Unused substitutes: Watson, Horner, Skirpan.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Drench, Toulson, Lowe, Wroe, Killock (c), Havern, McKenna (Ross 73′), Branson, Beesley, Dawson (Spencer 84′), Clee (Johnson 65′).
Unused substitutes: Boshell, Nowakowski.
Referee: Andrew Kitchen