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Witton Albion succumb to Blyth Spartans after a second half recovery by the hosts
FOR a while it appeared Albion were on course to end their wait for a league win on the road that had started in October.
But then Blyth, backed by the wind, blew them away.
Witton led, deservedly, at the break after goals from Danny Andrews and Michael Powell replied to captain Robbie Dale’s remarkable opener for the hosts.
There was a sense, though ahead, the visitors may regret not being further in front. They created enough chances to be.
Spartans, victors in eight of their past nine matches in the Premier Division at Croft Park, were muddled though until goalkeeper Matt Cooper felled top scorer Dan Maguire after an hour.
Dale confidently made it 2-2 from the resulting spot kick, a catalyst for Blyth to be better. And they were from that moment on.
Fortune favoured them, deserting Brian Pritchard’s men, when Maguire’s corner arced in directly from the flag with nine minutes left.
The in-form forward took his season goal tally to 20 in stoppage time, gleefully thrashing in a loose ball after Dale and then substitute Paul Robinson had initial attempts blocked.
Witton’s players looked shell-shocked afterwards.
Like they had done seven days previously against Worksop, another opponent with the play-offs as an objective, they had poked a foe in the eye.
The recurring problem is a failure then to land a knockout punch that pinches points.
There is spirit aplenty; after Dale danced past Anthony Gardner in the seventh minute before swerving a perfectly-placed shot into the top corner, they replied instantly.
Andrews, with space in which to dribble after full back Joe Kendrick could not cut out a lofted pass, waited for the right moment to stroke a smart finish beyond custodian Conor Grant’s reach.
It buoyed Witton, yet subdued Spartans.
Alex Titchiner, making his first start since signing again for the club this week, had Grant worried when sending a spectacular attempt from distance goalwards.
Josh Hancock cut inside from the left before forcing Blyth’s net-minder to save, then Titchiner whistled a drive inches past an upright following Andrews’ assist.
There was little surprise when Hancock’s curved free kick was helped, with the merest of deflections, into the net by Powell on 38 minutes.
Titchiner went close again; his dipping effort scraping the bar after Andrews took a free kick quickly while defenders napped.
Blyth did not conjure a chance in the second period until Neal Hooks burst into a space from midfield to slip a pass into Maguire’s path.
He won a foot race with Cooper, taking a tumble at the moment the goalkeeper’s slide ended in contact.
Dale did the rest, though Albion ought to have scored when Rob Bodie, unmarked, skidded wide a header from Andrews’ corner.
Robinson’s blasted attempt was tipped to safety by Cooper at the other end, only for Maguire’s swerving corner to sneak inside the far post with Lewis Horner closing in.
Powell’s header from Hancock’s set piece dropped agonisingly wide before Maguire made certain of victory.
Witton Star Man: Anthony Gardner. After a torrid opening, recovered to shackle one of the Premier Division’s most incisive players in Robbie Dale. And that’s no mean feat with Blyth in such rampant form at Croft Park. Run close by Alex Titchiner, whose clever movement and constant running kept Spartans’ central defenders Nathan Buddle and Danny Parker on red alert.
Blyth (4-2-3-1) Grant (GK), Utterson, Buddle, Parker, Kendrick, Hooks, Horner, Watson (Robinson 76), Wade (Hubbard 71), Dale, Maguire Subs not used Purewal, Cummings, Wearmouth Goals Dale 7, 61 (penalty), Maguire 81, 90 Booked Buddle (foul)
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Bodie, Harrison, Brown, Andrews, Breeze, Jackson (Bakkor 66), Powell, Hancock, Titchiner Subs not used Plant (GK), Crofts, Dawson, Moseley Goals Andrews 9, Powell 38
Referee Marc Edwards