Despondent Avenue beaten in Blyth
Three unanswered Blyth Spartans goals condemned Avenue to their fourth defeat of the calendar year on a bitterly disappointing afternoon at Croft Park.
Mark Bower’s only change from the previous week was a forced one, with Wayne Brooksby being withdrawn due to injury and replaced by Javan Vidal. Veteran midfielder Danny Boshell was handed a place on the bench after serving his suspension for a red card against Nuneaton Town.
The score line would suggest that the encounter was predominantly one-sided, but Avenue had their fair share of opportunites and fell victim to some questionable officiating. Blyth, however, were ruthless in front of goal and made the visitors pay for some calamitous defending.
After a cagey opening ten minutes, the first two chances of the afternoon fell to the hosts in quick succession. Dan Maguire struck low from close-range but was denied by a Luca Havern block before Kieran Green’s follow-up was saved by Steven Drench.
Avenue then self-destructed after competing well in the early stages, as Shane Killock’s headed back pass failed to reach Drench and was latched on to by Maguire. He was brought down by the goalkeeper, which allowed Dale Hopson to step up and convert the resulting penalty.
After a brief spell on the backfoot in the aftermath of conceding, Avenue grew in confidence and began to threaten a Blyth backline that they had experienced so much joy against in the reverse fixture.
Oli Johnson burst past Michael Liddle down the left flank before rifling an unstoppable effort into the top corner, but the linesman’s flag brought a premature end to celebrations.
Vidal then turned sharply in the box before shooting goal wards, but Peter Jameson held comfortably despite a potentially dangerous deflection.
The offside trap proved to be an obstacle for the visitors throughout, and Dan Pybus was unimpressed by the raising of the linesman’s flag after the loanee latched on to a through-ball from Jamie Spencer.
Despite the improvement in Avenue’s performance as the second-half progressed, defensive fragilities proved costly as a sickening blow was dealt on the stroke of half-time. Robbie Dale rounded Ryan Toulson before cutting back to Jarrett Rivers, who steered past Drench from around 10-yards out.
Mark Bower had clearly challenged the players to test Jameson on a more frequent basis in the second-half, and a long-range drive from Spencer was spilled by the goalkeeper barely a minute after the restart. Unfortunately, the Blyth stopper pounced on the ball before a lurking Adam Boyes could.
The travelling Avenue supporters were then given a scare when Maguire jumped to block a Drench punt and would have been furious had the Avenue stopper not recovered to make a fantastic save.
Keen to regain a grip on the game, Bower introduced Frank Mulhern to the fray and the substitution was shortly followed by Adam Smith’s arrival as Avenue looked to haul themselves back into contention.
The dugout, the players and supporters alike were then left dumbfounded by the referee’s decision to book Johnson, who had been hauled down in the box after racing through to meet a Mulhern through ball. The official cited simulation as a reason for the issuing of the yellow card, only adding to the frustrations.
Johnson very nearly responded with a goal, as his header looked destined to make the net bulge before Jameson plucked it out of the top corner in impressive fashion. The chance followed a terrific delivery from Smith, who demonstrated his ability to trouble defenders after replacing Vidal.
The game, however, was put beyond Avenue when Hopson evaded two challenges by cutting in from the left before firing past Drench. Johnson and Boyes both came close in the latter stages, but Avenue couldn’t penetrate the sturdy Blyth backline. Avenue have an opportunity to bounce back on Tuesday, as they visit the Peninsula Stadium to take on Salford City.
Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Liddle, Watson (Gorman 84’), Green, Buddle, Hutchinson, Rivers (Langstaff 79’), Reid, Maguire (Wrightson 79’), Hopson, Dale (c).
Unused substitutes: Mullen, MacDonald.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Toulson, Clee, Wroe (c), Killock, Havern, Vidal (Smith 65’), Pybus (Mulhern 57’), Boyes, Johnson, Spencer (Nowakowski 72’).
Unused substitutes: Hill, Boshell.
Referee: John Matthews
Booked: Green, Buddle (Blyth), Johnson (Avenue).
Written by Tom Coates