Northallerton Town vs Blyth Town (Northern League Second Division) – 14/01/2017

Northallerton Town: 1 – Thomas Briggs, 2 – Richard Walker, 3 – Stephen Jackson, 4 – Stephen Cheeseman, 5 – Dan Jones, 6 – Jack Proctor, 7 – Marcellus Kerr, 8 – Stuart Owen (C), 9 – Nicky Martin, 10 – Josh Keogh, 11 – Shawn Hudson, 12 – Mark Sims, 14 – Liam Jarvie, 15 – Thomas Atkinson, 16 – Marcus Laing, 17 – Karl Hewitt.

Blyth Town: 1 – Matthew Crook, 2 – Matthew Tumility, 3 – John Gray, 4 – Lee Middleton, 5 – Anthony Moran, 6 – Ian Herron (C), 7 – Liam Gillesphey, 8 – Shawn McRoberts, 9 – Zak Atkinson, 10 – David Robinson, 11 – Daniel Sayer, 12 – Josh Miller, 15 – Andrew Connor, 16 – Jack Errington, 17 – John Iveson.

Today, I opted for a 30 or so mile drive down to Northallerton to watch their home league game against Blyth Town. 9th in the league at home to 7th, it was always likely to be a close game.

It was Northallerton who kicked the game off, although it was Blyth who managed the stronger start. Blyth’s number 3, John Gray, won the first corner of the game in the 4th minute. From the resulting corner, the ball was shuffled over the line, although the linesmen deemed it offside and brought the play back for a free kick. This prompted chants of ‘you’re just a small town from Scotland’ by the home supporters.

Yet it was the small town from Scotland that continued the pressure. Their number 11 and 8, Daniel Sayer and Shawn McRoberts, combined well to force an amazing point blank save from the home goalkeeper, Thomas Briggs. The corner was smartly sent into the area and confidently met by Blyth’s number 7, Liam Gillesphey, who got up well to make it 1-0 to the away team, and justifiably after the previous pressure.

And Blyth managed to continue the pressure after the restart with some long range, audacious efforts, though they didn’t manage to test Briggs all that often. Onto the 22nd minute, and Blyth had another corner. From the corner, the ball was shot over the line, and cleared by the Northallerton defence. A shot that definitely looked over, the referee waived play on, and the score remained 1-0 to the away team.

Northallerton only really looked dangerous on the counter attack so far. With Shaun Hudson and Marcellus Kerr continuously running at the Blyth Town defence, there were very little else in terms of attacking threat thus far.

It was the 37th minute when the next real chance was created, seamlessly out of the nothing. The ball was knocked around the centre of the pitch very smartly by the Blyth team before it fell to their number 6 and captain, Ian Herron. Rather audaciously, Herron struck a long range shot, straight into the top right corner of Briggs’ goal, to make it 2-0 to Blyth. Again, justified after the previous pressure, Northallerton didn’t look like they’d turned up so far.

So the teams went in at 2-0. An exceptionally dominant performance by Blyth totally keeping the home side out of the game.

Following their confident first half performance, Blyth barely had 5 minutes in the changing room but, instead, decided to stay on pitch and start some warm-up drills to maintain their body heat, whilst Northallerton took as long as they could in the changing room.

In contrast to the first half, it was Northallerton who started the half stronger. The first chance of the half fell to their number 11, and main threat so far, Shawn Hudson, although this went just past the post, but a glimpse of goal that they lacked in the first half.

Whilst Northallerton had started to get their stride in the game, I couldn’t help but notice the alarming amount of free headers Blyth continued to win. The home side were dramatically lacking in physicality compared to their opponents, yet they still attempted long passing. When they started keeping the ball of the floor, and knocking it around freely, they looked the much better team.

Continuing the pressure, Northallerton got their first real sight of goal, and it came directly from the captain, Stuart Owen. Pushing the ball onto his left foot, Owen coolly sidefooted the ball into the top left corner from 20 yards out. With a lack of closing down from the Blyth defence, Owen placed the ball as far into the top left corner as reasonably possible, giving Blyth’s keeper, Matthew Crook, absolutely no chance. 1-2, and the momentum working favourably for Northallerton.

And just two minutes later, in the 64th minute, it was Northallerton who’d manage to grab an equaliser. Passing the ball through the middle to their substitute number 12, Mark Sims, who managed to take a smart touch to get behind the Blyth defence. Utilising his pace, Sims managed to hold off the chasing defence, and take the ball around the outrushing Crook, to finish into the bottom of the goal, making it 2-2. Having looked out of the game by half time, this was a phenomenal turnaround from the home team, and one they’d be looking to capitalise on.

Having known the game was slowly going in their favour, Northallerton started to push more players up the field, after previously not being able to. This left a huge gap in the defence for Blyth to make the most of. Feeding the ball through to their number 7, and scorer of their first, Gillesphey, Blyth managed to cut open the defence. Leaving the defenders for dead, Gillesphey chipped the ball over the keeper, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and out. A definite eye opener for Northallerton, who had looked completely in control so far in the second half.

A pretty even game in terms of pressure in each half, but the game was decided in the 87th minute, and it was Blyth who’d managed to seal the deal. Gillesphey, who always seemed to be at the centre of anything creative Blyth had to offer, played the ball behind to his attacking colleague, Zak Atkinson,  who smashed the ball first time towards Briggs’ goal. This unstoppable, close range shot found its way into the top left corner of the goal, and decided the fate of the game, making it 3-2 to the away team in the dying minutes.

I very rarely see a game with two halves so conflicting in terms of which team looked the stronger, but I can’t complain as it made for an exceptionally good watch! Good luck to both teams for the rest of your seasons!

 

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