Run and football 8 Blyth 29th April 2023

Another run up the coast and a match which is potentially very significant for Blyth. After our fun in the sun at Whitley Bay a couple of weeks ago we move up the coast to see the uniquely named Blyth Spartans the most northerly outpost of the National League North. Today’s game is the last of the season for both clubs and Blyth need a win and for other results to go their way to avoid relegation.

Hereford flag at Croft Park

About the teams

Blyth Spartans describe themselves as “the most famous non league football team in the world” on their twitter page and with no data to disprove this up I’m happy to agree. The club were founded in 1899 and secretary Fred Stoker named the club Blyth Spartans after the Greek Spartan Army hoping it would give the team an edge in the battle of sport. Memorable name aside Spartans are probably most famous for their FA Cup run in 1978 where they reached the 5th round eventually losing to Wrexham after a replay at St James’s Park, Newcastle.

In a 30 year spell from the mid 1960’s Blyth won the Northern League title ten times before moving up the pyramid in the 1990’s reaching the National League North in 2006. After relegation in 2012 the club returned to National League North in 2017 and have struggled with almost certain relegation in 2020 averted by the cancellation of football due to the Covid pandemic. Bylth have played at Croft Park since 1909 with the ground having a mix of old and new facilities.

In the current season Blyth have struggled throughout and have been in or around the relegation places for months. With four teams to be demoted from the National League North each year it is more difficult to escape than in most other divisions. A five match unbeaten run came to an end last week at Alfreton Town who were looking to further their playoff ambitions. In the 21st and last relegation place and 2 points from the team with the next lowest points the scenario for Blyth is simple, they need to win. After that is gets more complicated with at least one of Southport, Farsley Celtic and Kettering Town needing to drop points for relegation to be avoided.

Hereford have been comfortably mid table all year and have had an unremarkable season. Former manager Josh Gowling left in March and was replaced by Yan Klukowski as interim boss. Paul Caddis who played for a host of clubs during his career is starting his managerial career with the club from Monday with Klukowski moving to a youth coaching job at Forrest Green Rovers. Caddis has already held 1-2-1 meetings with the players and it is unclear if these will motivate or demotivate them. The highlight of the season for the Bulls was the FA Cup First Round tie with Portsmouth which was shown live on BBC.

Hereford United were forced to fold in 2014 due to financial difficulties and Hereford FC was formed starting in the Midland League. Hereford United were best known for their FA Cup triumph over Newcastle United in 1972 and the goal of the season from Ronnie Radford. Herford quickly progressed through the leagues with three successive titles helping the club reach the National League North in 2018. After mid table finishes throughout the period from 2018 to 2022 hopes were high for improvement this year but the team have been unable to challenge.

Welcome to Blyth Spartans razor wire

Going for a run

After our run from Whitley Bay a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward to this one. Another run along the coast with sun, sand and scenery. It’s a bit like a guided tour “my brother in law lives in this street” and “the park is across the road”. Strangely Adrian seems to know where he is going this time.

As we run towards the beach Adrian says we are doing the Blyth 10k route. I’ve got bad memories of this one from 2014 when I went out strongly, got bored and lost all momentum. Brian reminds me I finished behind him that day which is nice of him to remember. We reach the beach and I want to run on it but Brian and Adrian are happy on the promenade. It is a bit stonier than Whitley Bay and doesn’t have as many walkers.

Adrian and Brian running past the beach hut on Blyth Promenade

It’s better than I remember as we join the path through the dunes I recognise. After about 3 miles we turn around and hit the beach. The tide is out and I’m enjoying avoiding the little streams of water coming down across the beach and joining the sea. It is much more fun than the run back up the road from the 10k race.

The Beach Boys

Blyth Spartans V Hereford

When we get back to the ground normal service is resumed. Adrian parked right outside the turnstiles and his car is now locked in. We can’t get through that way so run three quarters of the way round the ground to find my car. Adrian cuts the corner off by running across a field and gets attacked by an overfriendly terrier on an extended lead. Changed and fed we enter the ground. I get the last programme and we find somewhere to stand. The ground is pretty full for an important match for the home side.

Teamsheet on the programme hut door

The game

Blyth start brightly and are busy but don’t really look threatening. The fans are up for the game doing their best to encourage the team. Michael Spellman, on loan from Sunderland, takes up the challenge. Cutting in from the left he beats three Hereford players and smashes the ball past the keeper. 1-0 to Blyth after 15 minutes and the home team are doing their job.

Spellman celebrating the first goal

Cedric Main meets a Nicky Deverdicks cross with a strong header to double the lead. The game looks over already with Hereford offering little going forward. Over to the other teams to get themselves out of trouble. News that Spennymoor are beating Farsley filters through before the end of the half. They would need an equaliser to move above Spartans. With a weight lifted from their shoulders Spartans continue to press and Main should score but doesn’t with a lob in the closing minutes. The home team receive a standing ovation at half time for their efforts.

Curtis Main attacks the ball for his goal

Second half

In the second half it is all one way traffic and we consider moving to the end Blyth are attacking. To use a cliché Hereford are already on their Summer holidays and Blyth quickly increase their advantage. Main is pulled down in the box and Deverdics scores with an emphatic penalty under the bar. Hereford’s job gets even harder when Haines dives in on McGowen with studs up on the halfway line. Despite a few changes by the away team Blyth quickly score again after Spellman shows his pace to beat the full back and rolls an inviting cross across the box. It is met by JJ O’Donnell who strokes it into the goal. Blyth can’t lose from here and attention switches elsewhere.

By now Spennymoor are 2-0 up against Farsley and Kidderminster lead 2-0 against Kettering. Blyth are up to 19th and unless there is a major turn around will be in National League North next season. To put the icing on the cake O’Donnell plays a defence splitting pass to Ferguson who makes it 5. Farsley score but there is no change in results and Blyth are safe from relegation.

Second half action

Final table

PositionClubGoal differencePoints
19thBlyth Spartans-1350
20thFarsley Celtic-2450
21st  RKettering Town-2249
22nd  RLeamington-1948
23rd RBradford (Park Avenue)-2246
24th RAFC Telford United-4132

Review of the day

A nice way for Blyth to finish the season tension free after Kettering and Farsley fell two goals behind in the second half. Plenty of parking on the residential streets near the ground which enabled a quick get away. The only disappointment was the quality of the public address system meant we couldn’t hear if we won the half time draw.

Blyth players celebrate with their fans

Entry Fee £12

Programme £2 32 pages

Attendance 1,533

Run fun 7/10

Parking availability 8/10

Match entertainment 6/10

Adrian’s pastry index “almost as good as Barrow despite the filling looking like dog food”

Blyth Spartans FC website

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