Spartans seven points safety after defeat

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IT wasn’t to be a happy return to his former club for Blyth Spartans manager Tommy Cassidy as his new side slumped to their third successive defeat in the Blue Square Bet North in a game of two halves at Borough Park.

The Ulsterman – serving the second of a two match touchline ban incurred at previous club Whitby Town – watched his first game in charge of Spartans from the stands on a blustery Boxing Day in Cumbria.

Attacking with the wind behind them in the first half the visitors failed to make their advantage count and were punished in the second period as Workington scored twice in the space of three minutes to secure a crucial victory ahead of the reverse fixture at Croft Park on January 2.

The result not only means that Spartans will enter the New Year bottom of the league table and seven points from safety but also provides 17th placed Workington with some breathing space above the relegation zone in their own quest for survival.

In a cagey opening Reds striker David McNiven thought he had fashioned the first chance of the game on 14 minutes when he dispossessed Phil Cave to race towards goal only for an excellent tackle by Richie Slaughter to deny him the chance to pull the trigger.

Gale force winds made it difficult for the hosts to get out of their own half and Spartans had the best of the chances.

The lively Wayne Phillips produced an inviting ball into the area that hit the knee of Neal Hooks and bounced into the hands of Reds goalkeeper Aaran Taylor – with the Spartans midfielder unable to adjust in order to get a true connection.

A long throw from Slaughter then found Graeme Armstrong, who showed good strength in the area by holding off Kyle May before unleashing a powerful effort which Taylor saved well at his near post.

At the other end a previously untested David Knight had to be at his best to tip a curling shot from Gareth Arnison around the post.

Blyth then had their best chance of the game a minute later when a perfect ball from Phil Cave found Chris Emms through the middle, whose first touch was immaculate but was not matched by the finish as he fired wide with just Taylor to beat.

Knight was then equal to McNiven’s shot from close range before the break.

Four minutes after the interval, McNiven managed to beat the Blyth goalkeeper but not the offside trap as the striker’s effort was ruled offside after a lengthy discussion between referee Anthony Backhouse and his assistant on the far side.

Spartans came under immense pressure and somehow remained on level terms when Paul Johnson fired a point blank header straight at Knight when it appeared easier to score.

The Reds did manage to get the breakthrough, however, on 66 minutes when a wind-assisted cross from Arnsion found its way into the bottom corner of Knight’s goal.

The hosts then extended their lead three minutes later when Mark Boyd threaded the ball through to Phil McLuckie, who slid the ball past Knight to wrap up the points for his side.

The response from the visitors – attacking towards a decent away following from Blyth – was feeble at best with just a solitary chance falling to Armstrong, whose deflected effort dropped comfortably into the hands of Taylor.

To compound Blyth’s misery, central defender Carl Jones was forced out of action with just two minutes of the contest remaining in what appeared to be a recurrence of the hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season.

Spartans must improve drastically if they are to have any chance of moving off the bottom of the Blue Square Bet North table – starting with the visit of Workington on Monday January 2nd at Croft Park. Kick-off for the Bank Holiday clash is at 3pm.

Workington: Taylor, Andrews, Rowntree (Simpson), May, Johnson, Hewson, McLuckie, Boyd, McNiven (McLellan), Arnsion (Snaith), Wright

MOM: McLuckie

Blyth Spartans: Knight, Slaughter, Cave, Groves, Jones (Mason), Pearson, Emms (Taylor), Hooks, Armstrong, Mole, Phillips

MOM: Knight