9:49pm Saturday 21st September 2013
By Sports correspondent
BEFORE this game, Blyth Spartans had never won a league encounter away to Witton Albion.
They know now what that feels like, becoming the first team this season to shut out Brian Pritchard’s men.
Nor did they need a full complement to do it, playing the second period a man down following Neal Hooks’ first half dismissal.
That his side, now the lowest scorers in the Premier Division aside from rock-bottom – and winless – Droylsden, could still not find the net is the Witton manager’s most pressing concern.
Albion lost 10 games in the whole of last term; the list of defeats this time is six-strong already after only nine matches.
As is becoming custom, Witton conjured chances to score.
New recruit Chris Luby sprinted clear in the opening exchanges, only for Blyth skipper Arjun Purewal to block brilliantly his shot.
Danny Andrews, source of his teammate’s opportunity, was thwarted by debutant goalkeeper Michael Misiewicz when he arced an attempt goalwards soon afterwards.
He fired wide too when Ben Harrison laid off from the resulting corner.
Luby, formerly of Northwich Victoria, was then guilty of a glaring miss when face-to-face with Misiewicz on a quarter hour, misjudging the bounce after pouncing on the net-minder’s mistake.
The visitors, unbeaten on the road, went close at the other end when Matthew Wade drilled across the face of goal.
A twist followed; Hooks hacked down Luby, a foul punished with a red card, inside the penalty area.
But Josh Hancock, usually so assured from the spot, was foiled when Misiewicz saved to his left.
The impact was most obvious on Albion’s psyche, for they were passive after the interval.
Prompted by the outstanding Robbie Dale, Blyth almost edged ahead when Danny Maguire blasted narrowly over.
Dale then made room to shoot after bamboozling Cliff Moyo, only for Witton custodian Matt Cooper to save smartly.
The contest’s decisive moment arrived with eight minutes left, Maguire teeing up Wade.
When Andrews’ lunged at the latter, referee Steve Mycock had an easy decision to award a second spot kick.
Dale kept his cool, converting the resulting penalty.
Blyth continued to look more likely scorers afterwards too; Dale – who else? – delivered a pass for Maguire who sent an attempt against the crossbar.
Craig Hubbard was then sent off after being booked for a second time, leaving the visitors with nine players.
They held on, though Miesiewicz was called into action a final time to parry Michael Powell’s volley.
Next up for Albion? Only table-toppers and title favourites Fylde.
Witton Cooper (GK), Moyo, Harrison, Joseph, Glover (Dawson 51), Andrews, Sheehan (Breeze 66), Powell, Hancock, Wilson, Luby (Hughes 60) Subs not used Ashworth, Purcell Booked Sheehan (ungentlemanly conduct), Andrews (foul)
Blyth Misiewicz (GK), Buddle, Lancaster, Purewal, Parker, Hubbard, Watson (Airey 53), Hooks, Maguire (Cummings 90), Wade, Dale (Nolan 90) Subs not used Grant (GK), Wearmouth Goal Dale 82 (penalty) Booked Hubbard (ungentlemanly conduct) Sent off Hooks (preventing goal-scoring opportunity), Hubbard (second caution)
Referee Steve Mycock (Stretford)
Thanks to Phil Chadwick and Jamie Thompson for their assistance with this report
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