Bank Holiday success at Blyth keeps Town top of the pile

Terry Kennedy celebrates after opening the scoring at Blyth. Picture: Town Pix
Terry Kennedy celebrates after opening the scoring at Blyth. Picture: Town Pix

A goal in each half saw Harrogate Town to a 2-0 Bank Holiday Monday victory at Blyth Spartans that keeps them top of National League North.

Defender Terry Kennedy opened the scoring from close range towards the end of a first period littered with bookings.

Town were then reduced to 10 men in the closing stages after Jack Vann was sent off, though Josh Falkingham struck in stoppage-time to ensure that the visitors returned home with all three points.

Boss Simon Weaver again named an unchanged starting XI, top-scorer Simon Ainge captaining the side on his 50th start for the club.

Town were forced to absorb some pressure early on as a fast start from the hosts saw James Belshaw forced into saving efforts from Robert Dale and Daniel Maguire.

The visitors’ brightest moment in the opening stages came after some near footwork by Jordan Thewlis allowed him a shot at goal. His effort was blocked before George Thomson’s rebound was kept out by Blyth gloveman Peter Jameson.

With just under ten minutes of the half remaining, Joe Leesley came close to handing his side the lead when heading Thomson’s corner goalwards, only to see the effort cleared off the line.

The hosts responded by going close themselves as Nathan Buddle’s flicked header landed on the roof of the net.

The deadlock was then broken four minutes before the interval with a goal fitting of a scrappy first half.

Thomson’s corner was inadvertently turned towards goal by a Spartans defender, and subsequently not cleared, allowing Kennedy to scramble the ball into the net.

Blyth’s Sean Reid had the chance to level on the stroke of half-time, but blasted over from eight yards out.

Leesley almost doubled Town’s advantage at the start of the second period, but saw his deflected strike saved by Jameson low to his left.

In the 57th minute, Jameson was caught out well off his line and brought down Thewlis, with the loose ball running to Leesley faced with only defenders covering the goal.

With the Town man poised to shoot, the referee’s whistle denied the away team any advantage and the chance of a second of the afternoon.

Weaver’s men began to pile on the pressure and rattled the woodwork on the hour-mark as Thomson’s right-wing shot bounced back off an upright.

With Blyth desperate to salvage a result, crosses came in thick and fast to the away box, though both Kennedy and his central defensive partner Warren Burrell cleared everything that came their way.

With just 10 minutes remaining, Town were reduced to 10 men as first-half substitute Vann was given his marching orders for a full-blooded challenge on Dave McTiernan in midfield.

The Spartans threw everything they had at their visitors, but deep into stoppage-time Falkingham raced through on goal and slid between the legs of Jameson to seal a hard-earned success.