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Blyth Spartans 1 Leigh RMI 0

By Matt Lawton
September 2 2006

RMI's four game unbeaten run came to an end as they lost a fierce encounter in the torrential North Eastern rain to Conference North high-flyers Blyth Spartans. RMI made the long trip to the North East full of confidence after Monday's impressive 2-0 home victory over Gainsborough, ensuring that manager Stuart Humphreys maintained his unbeaten record in the Hilton Park hot seat, which in turn lifted RMI to mid-table in the Conference North after previously struggling near the bottom earlier in the season.

However, they came up against a Blyth side that have looked almost unbeatable at home, and although this is only their first season in the Conference North, they were looking to regain the top spot that they lost last night with Worcester's win at Workington.

The game was certainly in doubt to even take place, a ridiculous scenario considering how early it is in the season, as an almost-biblical amount of rain hammered not only Croft Park, but seemingly the whole of the north as the RMI side travelled the 170 miles to the Northumberland coast.

As expected, the hosts started brightly but RMI weathered the storm (excuse the pun!) and began to play themselves back in to the game, with RMI midfielder Scott Willis calling the Spartans goalkeeper in to action with a snapshot from outside the area that was heading in to the net until the intervention of the Blyth number one.

After being left out of the starting line up for Monday's victory, Willis was keen to prove his worth in the side and was quickly becoming a central figure in the piece. He thought that he'd won a penalty midway through the first half after seemingly having his heels clipped in Blyth's eighteen-yard box, but his penalty claims were waved away by a referee that was starting to lose his grip on an increasingly fierce contest.

After four games and almost seven hours of failing to concede a goal, it seemed that the RMI of old had returned when a defensive mix-up meant that Blyth's Scott Bell could take advantage of a failed clearance and put the hosts in front, with Bell's header trickling agonisingly just inside John Lamb's left hand post.

Spartans could've quickly doubled their lead, but the celebrations of the partisan home crowd were quickly cut short when their 'goal' was ruled out for offside after John Lamb had failed to hold on to a controversial free kick from outside of the area that was given even though the referee had seemingly played the advantage in Blyth's favour before recalling an earlier infringement.

Tempers became heated on the field with three players finding themselves in the referee's notebook in the first half alone as the man in the middle failed to control the tackles from both sides, with Chris McDonagh, Andy Roscoe and Lee Shillito all shown the yellow card.

Scott Willis was involved in another chance, but his dipping shot from a long way outside of the area dropped just inches over the crossbar, leaving RMI a goal behind at the break.

The heavy rainfall continued in the second half, and although the pitch held up remarkably well in the circumstances, both sides started to look more to the long ball forward, but in RMI's case it was particularly aimless as they struggled to break down Blyth's stubborn defence.

Their best opportunity came from an Andy Roscoe free kick that was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper, while RMI's miserable afternoon was summed up by a Chris Simm shot that was so far away from goal that it actually went in touch for a throw in.

Although obviously a massive disappointment to lose a hard-earned unbeaten record, a one goal defeat at the league leaders certainly isn't something to be ashamed about, and RMI will be looking to get back to winning ways when Kettering Town are the visitors to Hilton Park next Saturday.

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