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Blyth Spartans 2 Leigh RMI 0

By Matt Lawton
October 27 2007

RMI were left to rue their hesitance in front of goal as they were struck once again by their set-piece curse in succumbing to a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Blyth Spartans in a crucial Blue Square North game, the first loss encountered by manager Steve Bleasdale since returning to the club a fortnight ago.

In the week since his first game back at the club ended in conceding a last minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Vauxhall Motors, Bleasdale started make a mark in the transfer market with ex-Liverpool striker Mark Smyth partnering Kieran Lugsden in attack at Croft Park, while midfielder Sean Ferguson and ex-Bamber Bridge striker Sean O'Neil were both introduced from the substitutes bench. Ashley Kelly, on loan from Oldham Athletic, made his first appearance during the second half against the Motormen and the speedy winger had a chance to impress in what was a rather attack-minded starting eleven for the visitors.

Indeed, it was Kelly who created the first chance of the game when he played a neat through ball to the edge of the penalty area only for Smyth, cousin of ex-Leigh Centurions winger Rob, to balloon his shot wildly over the crossbar.

RMI were forced in to a hasty reshuffle after barely fifteen minutes of action, with Ferguson, formerly of Tranmere Rovers, being introduced from the bench in place of Phil Charnock after he was forced to withdraw with an injury that was resultant from a seemingly innocuous challenge.

Although an unwelcome distraction, it proved to be a relatively straight forward substitution at a time in the game when Blyth were starting to exert their presence on the game, with RMI goalkeeper John Lamb forced in to a smart save from a corner before the home side took the lead on twenty five minutes when Leigh, as has been the case on countless occasions throughout the season, failed to effectively clear their lines from a corner and the ball found it's way to the influential Robbie Dale in the left hand channel, who cut inside and made no mistake in curling a terrific right foot shot inside Lamb's far post.

It was only a matter of minutes longer before RMI came agonisingly close to levelling the scores and a mighty Lamb punt upfield found Kieran Lugsden on the edge of the penalty area, but his first time lob flashed agonisingly wide of the post as the visitors found themselves a goal behind at the break.

The half-time period saw Bleasdale made a bold statement about his ambitions for the side when he withdrew winger Steve Settle and gave a debut to striker Sean O'Neil in a 4-3-3 formation that was intended to bring RMI back in to the game.

However, the RMI midfield now found themselves outnumbered and largely outmuscled and as such struggled to create many chances from RMI's three-pronged attack, with Blyth almost doubling their lead when an overhead kick was cleared off the line by only a timely intervention from the head of Scott Willis.

Former England Under 18 international Richard Chetcuti, a goalscorer within minutes of coming off the bench last weekend, didn't get much of a chance to repeat the trick in Northumberland, with the hosts making the game safe as the game entered stoppage time when they once again exposed RMI's set-piece weakness, with substitute Andrew Johnson finding it all too easy to latch on to a simple free kick and make no mistake in slotting the ball past Lamb.

Blyth goalkeeper Adam Bartlett has recently found himself called in to the England 'C' team, the side that represents the cream of the non-league scene, and he proved those credentials to the full with only seconds remaining when he somehow managed to claw away a terrific Chetcuti overhead volley that seemed to be heading straight for the goal.

On that occasion, as throughout the game, the Blyth man proved to be on top, and that is a situation that Bleasdale will want to reverse ahead of the visit to Hilton Park of local rivals Hyde United on Tuesday evening (7:45pm kick off).


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